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Posted on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:20 a.m.

Volvo destroyed after catching fire in downtown Ann Arbor

By John Counts


This Volvo caught fire at the intersection of Huron and Main streets in downtown Ann Arbor Thursday morning.

Photo submitted by Norman Tyler

A 1992 Volvo was totally destroyed when it burst into flames while waiting for a red light at Huron and Main streets Thursday morning, according to Ann Arbor fire officials.

A young woman was headed eastbound on Huron and came to a stop at the intersection just before 7:14 a.m. The woman, a University of Michigan graduate student, was then alerted by passersby that her vehicle was on fire, said Ann Arbor fire official Craig Sidelinger.

The woman safely got out of the Volvo before it was totally engulfed in flames, officials said.

“The car was a total loss,” Sidelinger added.

Fire crews arrived and extinguished the blaze within 45 minutes. The car was then towed from the intersection.

Acting Ann Arbor fire Battalion Chief Derek Wiseley said the fire likely started in the engine compartment underneath the car.

"It appears to be mechanical," he said.

The fire still remains under investigation.

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

Proof that some signal lights around town just stay red toooo long for one direction??

Ann English

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:02 a.m.

I've read that idling too much burns up excessive gasoline, but never that excessive idling tends to burn up a car's engine.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 3:36 a.m.

Did the Spartans win something ?

Jack Gladney

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

"Volvos. They're boxy, but they're good." - Emory Leeson (Dudley Moore) in Crazy People.

Bertha Venation

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

So glad she got out safe and sound!... but wow! That's one heck of a cigarette lighter!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

Here's an album of pictures I took as I drove to work this morning: contact if you want to use

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 8:31 p.m.

Thanks for sharing those coco!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

"...came to a stop at the intersection just before 7:14 a.m. " So in other words, at 7:13 a.m.? ;)


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

Yeah Ypsilivin, I expressed relief/gratitude that the young lady made it out safely and got thrown under the bus. Sheeeeesh!!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

Down votes?! Wow! Tough crowd today...

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:35 p.m.

This story is factually incorrect - you cannot destroy a Volvo. Not by fire, nor by water. The spirit of this Volvo has merely passed on to a better place.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

Strange... I suddenly have this overwhelming and irresistible hankering for marshmallows. But seriously, I had this very same vehicle years back. Substitute the B & 4 store in South Boston for the Key Bank, and I have nearly an identical photo I took of my baby as it met the very same fate. I had left it running while I ran back to grab something out of my girlfriends car behind it, and viola! - shock and awe on 4th Street ensued. Took out an awning, lightpole, cutsy little planter and someones bicycle in the process. I haven't heard of this being an epidemic with 240's, but it would seem to be a good idea to have your vehicle inspected should you own one.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:14 p.m.

@ YpsiLivin : Afirm. A small Fuel line rupture directly onto the exhaust manifold. Didn't take much to get her going. And no - I didn't have have an extinguisher handy. Would've been like p***ing in the wind if I had, though. Besides, a fire extinguisher doesn't open the hood for you : )


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:07 p.m.

As my response touches on, I spent my formidable years in Boston. That means we (especially us Southies) have an inherent immunity from toxic fumes. Some of us crank it up a notch, and go a step further to include an appetition for that sweet aromatic scent of home sweet home. Thus, burning swill from a Volvo engine is not precluded from an advantageous opportunity to grab a stick and enjoy some crisp mallow smoothies.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6 p.m.

So Major Paul, did you ever find out what caused your car to self-ignite?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

I think if you smelled a car fire you would not want marshmallows. Mmmm, tastes like toxic fumes.

Usual Suspect

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

Dang. Carbeque.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

I blame the higher fuel pressures of fuel injection plus the use of plastic fuel lines by some automakers. These newer F.I. cars/trucks seem to catch on fire more often then the old carburetter cars. Read some old motor trend mags from the mid 70's, they were saying the newer cars were going to have air bags and fire extinguishers, well they were right about the air bags.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

I blame failure to read and comprehend the article. 1992 = "newer"? Seriously?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

man i would be so embarassed if my car randomly burned down while i was driving it around town LOL


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

I thought it was funny, MeGrimlock.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:15 p.m.

Why you say LOL Meg? Is what you said funny?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

Yeah true, you got the $ lost and the embarrassment . Sad thing is, Volvo does build safer cars--compare the many other makes and models


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

Wow, glad the driver wasn't hurt and that it didn't injure any pedestrians when it burst into flames.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 9 p.m.

Yes, I agree! amazing how many people voted me down for expressing the same thing. like I said, and I stand by it, CARS can be replaced, PEOPLE can't.

John Counts

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

Fire department was there in minutes. They cleared the scene 45 minutes later.

Ann English

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1 a.m.

Coco's photo album below really explain why the scene couldn't be cleared quickly. Motorists could not see where they would go,because of the smoke, so they just didn't go. I still remember watching firefighters put out a grass fire once, and they kept their hoses going and going after I couldn't see any more fire, but there was still plenty of smoke. This car fire was worse than one videotaped at night in downtown Ann Arbor several years ago; that other one started under the hood, but very close to the street surface; it spread to the left front wheel well, but no tires popped. The firefighters seemed to know exactly where the fire started, and put it out there first. They opened the driver's door to pop the hood so that they could put out more of the fire under the hood. No explosion. The driver was already gone when that fire was videotaped from a restaurant across the street from it. Smoke did obscure the clarity of that video. I'm glad this car fire was only photographed, not videotaped.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

That is what separates Detroit from many other cities. We can depend on our city services...least during the daytime.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3 p.m.

Glad the young woman was able to get out in time! Cars can be replaced, people can't.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

45 minutes? The City's prime fire station is only two blocks away. Maybe a protest over lame FD funding - They were all waiting for the mayor to get into work before going into their rapid action mode. Or the water supply problem on Main Street if far more extensive than anyone wants to admit. Or the young woman is really a bumbling terrorist who took the wrong turn onto Main heading away from the Michigan Stadium.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

Don't forget the $750K+ eyesore- water sculpture probably lowering the city's water pressure.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

"Fire crews arrived and extinguished the blaze within 45 minutes." My guess (my hope) is AAFD arrived within minutes and that, following arrival, the fire was largely extinguished very quickly. Certainly WITHIN 45 minutes, but it probably took a lot less time than that.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

It is surprising that more owners of older cars do not carry fire extinguishers. It is a good addition to any car.

Dog Guy

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

YpsiLivin, five of the six times I have used the extinguishers in my vehicles have been on others' vehicles. Fire is man's common enemy.

Nick Treeville

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

Carrying an extinguisher is a good idea in an older, or vintage, car. I have had one (clamped securely on the trunk) since an alternator tried to fry itself on an old (classic) Toyota I had. bunnyabbot: You can see on the label of the what types of fire any extinguisher is suitable for and cars have only 2 kinds of fires, fuel (gasoline) or electrical, and an electrical can ignite fuel. Extinguishers are mostly fool-proof, and virtually puncture proof.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

Most commercial vehicles are required to have a fire extinguisher. So having one in a passenger car isn't really a stretch.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:06 p.m.

Dog Guy, I've been driving for 30 years and never once have I had need of a fire extinguisher for the car. I'm not saying that having a fire extinguisher handy is a bad idea, but exactly what kind of cars do you drive?

Dog Guy

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

Six times I have used 1A-10BC extinguishers mounted in my vehicles. Two were frozen-caliper tire fires. All had good results.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

I got one for my oldie car-you never know but yeah, the safest thing might be to run before in case it blows up


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

From what I have read there are four different kinds of extinguishers (?), so people would have to get the right kind to work on car blazes. Most people probably wouldn't have the extinguisher properly secured, so it would become a projectile in an accident. Many would probably store in their trunk and cars get really cold in the winter and really hot in the summer and I don't know if that would be safe. Also, what would happen when an extinguisher gets punctured in an accident? Everything I remember from drivers ed about car fires is getting everyone out and away from the vehicle. If my car is already on fire what does it matter if it is a little burnt or completely toasted, happier to have the professionals deal with it.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

As demoralization has spread through the ranks, beginning with the takeover of Volvo by Ford Motor Co., this kind of shame-induced self-immolation has taken off globally. But Volvos are not alone. There have been reports of Saabs weeply openly at four-way stop signs, since GM abandoned them.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

Weeping, or saabing?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

Volvo is owned by China now :(


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

That is not a "late model"....late model would be like a 2009-2014.

Jack Gladney

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 8:52 p.m.

Tom's right. That is clearly a first generation 240 with the 25mm Jorgensen Fetzer valve and the Schlager overdrive quad transfer case. Classic.

tom swift jr.

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

Actually, John, you had the "information" the minute you looked at that photo, which clearly shows an early 240 model. (sometimes it pays to keep a few of the old folks around when you disband your print newspaper staff and bring in all those darn kids, eh? One of them, especially someone from AA would have pegged that as a 240 in a heartbeat!)

John Counts

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3 p.m.

This was changed as soon as we were told it was 1992 model. The information came in late.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

Looks like "late model" went down the memory hole.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Ummmm...late model? That's a Volvo 240 which means that it is at least 20 years old.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

There had been a recall in the past for engine fires. Google has many accounts of this happening.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Actually Volvo recalls have been going on since the mid 80's just like most cars. Some of them were for electrical problems which can cause fires. This per Automobile Magazine

tom swift jr.

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

As someone who's about to commute 100 miles to work today, in a 23 year old 240 wagon, I can assure you there was no recall for that car (also a 240) which was made much earlier than those mentioned in the link you posted.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

I can assure you that those old Volvo's were not a part of that recall. Those cars were made to last and they usually did. I'm sure her 1992 had about 200K+ miles and was a sold and reliable vehicle prior to this incident. My family has owned several of these cars and they are some of the best ever manufactured. The newer ones that were made after the company was sold from it's Swedish owners are not nearly as reliable, and are the ones that were being recalled if you notice. The old 240's were not very good looking but they were made to last and they usually did