Car Fire


When it’s right there in the middle of the road and no one is around and emergency services just gives you a busy signal.


It was possible to see the smoke from some distance. In the darkness, it rose above the highway luminous with the light of the oncoming headlights of traffic rounding the curve of the road some ways ahead. The source was not clear at first, but soon after the traffic began to part and it became possible to see the flickering glow of flames. Then, like a parting of the seas, the cards in front of us merged to each side revealing a car, enveloped in fire, in the middle lane. 

For a moment we debated whether it was necessary to call emergency services, not because there was any doubt that it was an emergency, but that it seemed to be so very clearly an emergency that we thought surely out had already been called in. Just to be safe, we dialed 911. Busy signal. Our lane was not blocked, but we still merged left to give the fire extra space, passing on the smokeward side. I searched through the driver’s side window to check inside, but saw only a deployed airbag, not a person. I’m not sure what I would have done if someone had been inside- we realized that we didn’t have a fire extinguisher in the car to suppress even the smallest part of the flames or even to break the window. Luckily, the vehicle seemed to be abandoned. 

The whole scene seemed to be abandoned, in fact. A little ways ahead stood two additional vehicles on the shoulder of the road, but no one seemed to be in or around them. There was no fire truck, no ambulance, no police: just a lonely white sedan burning away in the middle of the road. 

We tried 911 a second time, but once again got a busy signal. By this time we were moving far beyond the scene of the disaster and seemed unlikely that we would be of much help, but we tried. 

The image of the lonely, abandoned car has stayed with me for its strangeness. How did it start? How did it end? Who was in it and where did they go and did anybody else respond? It’s likely that I will never know.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on January 30, 2017.

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