Staff Sergeant Joseph Lewis was driving around Saturday morning when he noticed the volume and temperature controls were not working. He didn’t think much of it until Saturday evening when he was driving around Joint Base Lewis-McChord about 10:15 p.m. when the car’s controls started to malfunction again.
“It was like a light show on the dashboard with different lights turning on and off and the stereo strobing,” Lewis said. “Then the car sputtered and shut off.”
The car made a cranking noise when Lewis tried to restart the car. Concerned, he got out of the car and called for help.
While Lewis was on the phone, he noticed a flame between the hood and the front windshield of the car. Panicked, Lewis popped the hood of the car, but flames started blazing on both sides of the hood.
“At this point, I knew there was nothing I could do,” Lewis said. “It was unbelievable how fast the flames spread. In less than five minutes the whole hood of the car was engulfed in flames.”
The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Fire Department responded and was able to put the flames out in about 30 minutes.
After the flames were extinguished, the car was melted to the pavement.
“It took a while to load the car onto a tow truck because the car had to be scraped from the pavement,” Lewis said.
The Jeep was purchased just this month, Lewis said. At the time of the incident the vehicle only had about 1,000 miles on it.
Lewis said he has started an insurance claim and has spoken with the dealership. It gave him a loaner vehicle and said that they would get back to him.
Lewis said he was in disbelief when the dealership was trying to sell him another car after his last vehicle went up in smoke.
He said the silver lining, if there is one, is that his family was not in the car when it caught on fire.
“I have two small kids and I’m lucky they weren’t in the car,” Lewis said. “It would have been hard to get them out of their car seats with flames coming out of the car.”
Chrysler-Fiat said in a statement to ABC News that it is investigating the incident.