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Yesterday, around noon, my wife drives her new VW Jetta to a local business, a firm she has visited on numerous occasions. This long-time business is located in a remodeled residence with a gravel parking lot. Upon leaving, she runs the front end of her Jetta over a tree stump, left intact in the gravel lot from removing an oak tree in June of this year. (We now know this, as we have talked with the business owner, but keep reading.)

The wife feels the impact, stops the car, and notices a piece of black plastic lying next to the stump. Driving home, all is OK, but by the time she gets home the car is smoking under the hood. I'm outside doing yard work and the wife yells that the car seems to be burning, and I come running.

With good sense not to park in the garage, she pops the hood latch, and sure enough, something is wrong, pungent wisps of smoke are coming from just behind the radiator. I'm guessing a fluid line was damaged. Engine oil, transmission, and/or power steering fluid is dropping on a hot surface.

Looking underneath shows considerable damage to the plastic panels and scuffing around the bottom of the engine, but I can see no fluid leaks. I go to my basement workshop and retrieve a rather substantial fire extinguisher, just in case.

During this time, I am calling the VW franchise dealer, who advises that I call VW Roadside Assistance. That call was a waste, as I am put on hold for an indeterminate period. Suddenly the wisps of smoke change to visible flames. I pull the pin on the extinguisher and apply the dry chemical stream to the likely area, dousing the flames.

At this point, I am really concerned. I call 911 to alert them of a vehicle fire. Standing by with the extinguisher, the volunteer fire department arrives; fire truck and seven personal vehicles. Their assistance is appreciated, but un-needed; although they did help disconnect the battery to prevent an electrical fire.

After they leave, I call a local towing service for a roll-back. The vehicle is now at the franchise dealer for repair.

In retrospect, we (and the business owner) were lucky. The fire extinguisher may have saved the vehicle from destruction. Worst case would have been a scenario in which the vehicle was parked in the garage, and burned the vehicle and our house to the ground, whew.

Now I'm left with the aggravation of “negotiations” with my insurance carrier, the business owner, and maybe the business owner's insurance company.

BTW, we've taken pictures of the entire incident, including the parking area, and of course, the stump.
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