'Hippie' VW bus goes up in flames in Roy

Tuesday , July 01, 2014 - 8:58 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

ROY — When Kathleen Bell saw her son's vehicle up in flames Tuesday, she knew it was more than just transportation that her family was losing.

The 1978 Volkswagon Bus that fell victim to an engine fire near 5600 South and 2100 West was in fact a passion of Joshua Groat's, a display of his personality. Joshua is aboard the USS George Washington off the coast of Japan, and his family was taking care of the bus while he works in a job far more buttoned-down than he is.

"He wants to be that long-haired veterinarian. He was so excited (to fix it up)," Bell said of her son, holding up the "HIPE4LF" (hippie for life) license plate once attached to the vehicle. "This was a piece of his identity."

Micah Groat, brother to Joshua, was driving the vehicle and carrying out errands with Joshau's nephew Jamal when he noticed the car was overheating.​

"Sparks started flying out of it," Groat said. "Red stuff was running down the back."

Groat pulled over and the two evacuated the vehicle just in time to see it enveloped in flames. A neighbor ran up with a fire extinguisher, but it wasn't enough. The Bus was totaled.

Micah Groat believes the devastating fire was part of a damaged or faulty fuel line, though fire crews were still investigating cause of the blaze Tuesday morning. He praised the firefighters and policemen on scene, saying one of the police officers gave Jamal $20 to replace the toys the 6-year-old lost in the fire.

As police roped off a stretch of 5600 South, fire crews doused the Bus shortly after 10:30 a.m. A nearby fourplex was evacuated as a precaution and nobody was hurt in the fire, Roy police Sgt. Shane Hubbard told the Standard-Examiner.

Still, Joshua Groat's family was feeling anxious that it would be a day or two before he could be notified about the Bus. It was an investment for Joshua, his brother said.

"He put five thousand dollars into that thing," Micah Groat said, after buying it for only $800.

A bad day for cars

The bus was one of two vehicles to be laid waste by a fire in the Top of Utah on Tuesday. An Acura was totaled in Bountiful earlier in the morning and halted southbound Interstate 15 traffic at the city's 500 South exit. A construction worker in that instance alerted the driver that the engine was on fire.

"(He) walked over and said, 'hey, you've got to get out of your car, it's on fire," South Davis Metro Fire Chief Jeff Bassett told the Standard-Examiner.

Bassett's crews quickly doused the fire and removed the car from the off-ramp, but the car was severely damaged.

The blaze started near the bottom of the engine, the chief said.

The off-ramp was closed to traffic for more than 20 minutes, causing traffic delays of more than 15 minutes, according to the Utah Department of Transportation's incident data.

There were no injuries in the fire.

​Avoiding the same disaster

Motorists need to be extra careful not to overwork and overheat their cars in the summer, said Brad Holley, owner at Holley Auto Repair in Ogden.

"It's something nobody wants to hear, but be careful on the AC," Holley said.

Cranking the air conditioning to its highest setting causes a lot of work for the engine, he said.

Holley also recommended drivers be aware of the last time they changed their engine coolant, saying it should be replaced at least every 100,000 miles.

Other equipment is at special risk during the summer, Holley said, including head gaskets, belts and hoses.

"Everything gets hotter and softer," he said.

Replacing equipment as needed or at least getting it checked is a good idea, according to Holley. Car owners should ask their mechanic to check the "O-Ring" on their fuel injector, he added; the device keeps the injector in place but can get porous.

"Sometimes it will leak and drip onto the engine," causing a fiery reaction, he said.

Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or blockhart@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Lockhart.

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