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Family Is Safe After Extreme Heat Causes Car To Overheat, Catch Fire

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah — A Woods Cross family is lucky to be alive after their SUV overheated and caught fire in triple-digit heat. There wasn’t much left, but they were able to get out safe.

The incident took place Saturday afternoon near Francis Peak in Farmington Canyon.

First responders feared the worst. They said the area was so steep and the heat so intense that their own vehicles started to overheat as they rushed to rescue the family and stop a wildfire from breaking out.

The Tetelpa family stood from a distance, watching as their SUV went up in flames on the side of a dirt road.

“It was insane. I have never seen that much heat before,” said Sgt. Chris Pope with the Davis County Sheriff’s Office.

The family was not able to salvage anything.

“My wallet, my purse, all of our car seats, our strollers… everything was lost,” said Kristy Tetelpa.

Sgt. Pope said the heat was so intense that it caused major damage to their rims.

“All four of them were just melted down into a little river,” he said.

“It’s pretty hard, especially imagining what could’ve happened,” Kristy said.

The family was heading up a steep road when their SUV started to overheat.

“We noticed there was a weird smell,” she said. 

“He noticed his gauge started to get into the red in the heat,” said Pope.

Kristy said smoke started coming out of the engine just as they pulled over.

“That’s when my husband yelled at me and was like, ‘The truck is on fire. We need to get all the kids out,'” she said.

They only had moments to get their four kids out of the vehicle.

“We started running down the hill,” Kristy said. “I didn’t even have time to grab my shoes.”

Sgt. Pope said the area is so steep and remote with no cell service. It took first responders 30 minutes just to reach the family.

“We had two fire department brush trucks and a fire engine show up, and they used all the water on that to get it out, and it was still steaming and hot underneath,” he said.

Yet Pope said things could’ve been a lot worse if the SUV had a full tank of gas.

“At the same time, nobody got hurt (and) the mountain didn’t start on fire,” he said. “We were very lucky in that case.”

Luck that the Tetelpas said was due to the passersby who stopped to help them.

“That was really nice,” Kristy said. “It shows that there were good people there.”

The family said they’re just grateful their kids are OK.

Sgt. Pope said it was also quick thinking on their part to not open the hood of the car, which likely would have provided more oxygen to the flames. He also gave a tip: pull over and turn on the heater to help the engine cool faster.

A GoFundMe has been created for the family.

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