CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It was January 19, 2012, and Rob Pyrock had only been on Wesley Chapel Stouts Road for a few minutes. Then suddenly and without warning Rob says he came across the railroad tracks and lost all power to the vehicle.
Pyrock had no idea what was happening, and he never expected what did happen when he rolled to a stop.
And when I went to the back to grab my tool bag, the whole interior was engulfed by fire, said Pyrock.
Pyrock s neighbor also stopped and recorded the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon burning as the fire department struggled to put out a fire that kept reigniting near the engine in the front. Pyrock s Jeep was a total loss and the why and how is a total mystery.
Then on March 12 near Ann Arbor, Michigan, a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon owned and driven by Sean Heiney lost its brakes and steering, and then caught fire.
So I tried to swerve the car and get it off the road (with) flames coming up the window at me, Heiney said.
A Jeep Wrangler forum on the Internet is filled with similar stories and videos, destructive fires in newer, seemingly healthy Jeeps.
But why? And is this a bigger problem?
(Click here to watch raw video of Pyrock's Jeep on fire)
Heiney says these fires were suspiciously similar to him.
Back in North Carolina, Pyrock awaited the explanation from his Jeep inspection after the fire. In a letter, Chrysler told Pyrock the inspector found no indication of a manufacturing defect.
When NewsChannel 36 followed up with Chrysler, a spokesperson said, The inspection report and photos indicate the driver was off road and collected dry grass throughout the underbody. The dry grass was in contact with the exhaust and ignited.
Vehicle fires are very complex and can occur for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the vehicle itself. Poor maintenance, improper vehicle use or improper installation of aftermarket equipment often causes of vehicle fires. Indeed, the Jeep Wrangler has an excellent safety record over many years of operation in markets around the world.
Pyrocksaid his recent off-roading was in a Union County field (checking a nearby deer stand) that even his wife s mini-van could handle, much less a Jeep Wrangler.
Pyrock added he had his Jeep inspected three weeks earlier. Everything checked out and the Jeep passed.
NewsChannel 36 asked Chrysler/Jeep to release their report on Pyrock s fire, but they said no, because they are claiming privilege.
So NewsChannel 36 sought a second opinion on the Jeep fire with The Center for Auto Safety in Washington, DC. We sent them the video, the photos and the letters that Chrysler sent NewsChannel 36.
In an email back, Clarence Ditlow wrote, I don t believe for a second that grass caused this fire.
Headded: The vehicle was moving, which means the underbody and components were cooled by the moving air flow. There have been some controlled experiments as to whether a hot exhaust system could ignite a fire, but all of them were done in a standing field with leaves or grass with the vehicle parked - i.e., more heat & more flammable material. Second, the amount of material is so small, it wouldn t sustain a fire. Third, it s not wet or charred as one would expect after dousing a fire with a fire hose.
NewsChannel 36 also contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with the United States Department of Transportation, which investigates automotive defects and dangers.
A spokesperson there wrote, We re monitoring the issue closely and will take appropriate action as necessary.
Pyrock says he would not buy another Jeep product after the way he has been treated.
Watch the full report Friday night at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.