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Parked Van Catches Fire, Explodes in Greenburgh

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- A Chevrolet van that had been parked for 30 minutes in front of a house on Florence Avenue, in Greenburgh, was destroyed when it caught fire and exploded Tuesday. Authorities said the cause of the fire might have been electrical.

The Fairview Fire Department, located just a few blocks away, received the call at 5:08 p.m. and arrived at the scene less than five minutes later.

“We could see the column of smoke from the firehouse,” said Deputy Chief Howard Reiss.

Reiss and his crew of eight firefighters put out the fire with class A foam and water. A powerful water jet hit the car as flames were consuming the driving cabin. At 5:15 p.m., an explosion, probably caused by water reaching the heated magnesium in the engine block, rocked the front of the vehicle. White smoke filled the air.

The flames underneath the vehicle kept coming back (because of the fuel, Reiss later said), but at 5:35 p.m. the fire was extinguished for good. At that point, the van’s interior was a mix of ashes and charred parts.

Edison Perguachi, 30, the van driver, watched in disbelief as the firefighters worked and his wife Sandra sobbed.

“I was in the house,” Perguachi said. “Somebody yelled that there was smoke coming out of the vehicle.”

An employee of a hardwood flooring company, Perguachi told the police that he used the van for work. James Caffrey, the company’s owner, arrived shortly before 6 p.m., just in time to witness his ruined 2005 van being loaded on a tow truck.

“I really don’t have anything to say because I don’t know what happened,” Caffrey said, but confirmed that the vehicle had insurance.

Reiss believed that the cause of the fire was an electrical failure underneath the dashboard. He discounted any foul play.

“Definitely not suspicious,” he said.

Perguachi is spending some time at his aunt’s house because his own apartment burned in a fire two weeks ago on 57 Robertson Ave., in White Plains, he said. He didn’t want to elaborate on the gloomy coincidence.

“Bad luck,” he just said.

What do you think could have caused a parked vehicle to catch fire?

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