Diners rushed to move their vehicles seconds before a car erupted in flames outside an Irvine breakfast parlor on June 11.
The driver of a charcoal grey Nissan hatchback backed into a parking space in front of a diner located at 17595 Harvard Ave. and sat in his car while leaving it running. The heat from the exhaust pipe caught some brush on fire—sending the car into flames, authorities said.
“Everybody sprinted out from the restaurant to move their cars as fast as they could,” Michael Cannavo told The Epoch Times.
Cannavo was having breakfast with his friend at the Poached Kitchen when they saw a parked car emitting heavy smoke.
Cannavo recalled his friend saying, “That car didn’t pass smog,” just prior to the vehicle catching fire.
“Within 30 seconds of that comment, it’s like billowing smoke. I moved my [car] as soon as it started smoking because I knew I was going to get trapped in with a fire truck coming.”
Cannavo said that about five restaurant employees ran outside to inform the driver that his car was smoking.
“The employees here were quick,” he said. “They ran right into the danger.”
However, the driver was “pretty unresponsive” and wouldn’t exit his vehicle.
It wasn’t until police arrived that the driver exited the vehicle, according to Cannavo.
“If that cop wasn’t here, I don’t know if that guy would have gotten out, honestly,” he said.
“The employees here we’re trying to get him out of the car, and he wouldn’t leave.”
Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Capt. Brett Buffington said that “the vehicle was parked for a prolonged period of time, and basically the heat from the vehicle caught the brush on fire.”
Irvine police Sgt. Karie Davies said the driver was arrested for a misdemeanor warrant unrelated to the call.
The driver didn’t suffer any injures, and the vehicle—sustaining significant burn damage—was towed from the scene.
The surrounding parking lot sustained minor property damage, Davies said.
On the scene, OCFA Capt. Thanh Nguyen told The Epoch Times that it took less than 10 minutes to extinguish the fire once firefighters arrived.
Nguyen said the driver declined paramedics and medical attention.
Buffington advised drivers to be aware when leaving vehicles running for a prolonged period near brush and other vegetation.
“If you park your car in an area that has vegetation nearby, just be cognizant that the heat from your vehicle could cause an issue,” he said.