As federal investigation grows, more owners tell of Jeep fires

Credit: Rob Pyrock

Rob Pyrock's Jeep burst into flames in North Carolina in January of 2012.


by BILL McGINTY / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @billwcnc

Posted on April 12, 2012 at 6:03 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 13 at 12:16 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NewsChannel 36 is investigating another sudden Jeep Wrangler fire and another unbelievable story behind it.

“The entire engine compartment was on fire,” said Mike Embry of Houston, Texas.

Just one day after U.S. safety regulators said they were expanding an investigation into the fires, NewsChannel 36 heard yet another story of someone who is looking for answers on Thursday.

Embry said he smelled smoke and found his Jeep with “just big bright orange flames shooting from under the hood.”

It’s an odd sight to say the least considering he had just returned home from buying his new 2012 Jeep Wrangler a mere four hours before. The odometer only had 17 miles on it.

But how could a brand new Jeep that wasn’t yet off road suddenly burst into flames?

The Houston Fire Department labeled the cause “equipment failure.”  Because there have been 23 sudden fires, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expanded their “sudden fire” investigation this week to include all Jeep Wranglers made between 2007 and 2012, a story the WCNC I-Team first reported 10 days before that  federal announcement.

Many of the fires are similar.  They’re sudden, they start near the engine and they are happening in different parts of the country, including at least two in North Carolina.  But the federal investigation isn’t a recall and Chrysler is quick to say that vehicle fires are complex.

Sean Kane with Safety Research and Strategies, an advocate group for vehicle safety, has been monitoring these Jeep fires and said the new Federal investigation could end up prompting a recall.

Back in Houston, Embry recorded his Jeep being towed back to the dealership where he bought it the day before. Embry says he was shocked when the dealership actually cashed Embry's check for the down payment a few days after his Jeep fire.  He is still trying to get his money back from the River Oaks Chrysler dealership in Houston.

Embry also said he received an email from the dealership two days after the fire thanking Embry for his business, writing, "I'm sure that you are enjoying your new vehicle."

When asked if he would buy another Jeep, Embry said no.

A Chrysler spokesman told NewsChannel 36 Thursday the Federal Government isn’t expanding their investigation, they’re just asking for more data, which is routine.

NewsChannel 36 has also been asking Chrysler for data on these fires, but they won’t release their report findings. The automaker argues the information is confidential and privileged.