• Graphic by Tim Bobko

    Credit: TIM BOBKO

 

It was a hot August day at The Cove Waterpark in Riverside, Calif. — but it was about to get much hotter. It all started when a family arrived and noticed a funny smell as they left their SUV.

Shrugging off the odd odor, they piled out of the family Ford Explorer and went through the ticket line. Wristbands, sunblock, towels and swimsuits in hand, they exited the lobby into the waterpark, eager to have fun.

Not long after, the mother noticed heavy black smoke emanating from the parking lot. Instantly, she put two and two together and headed to her SUV to do damage control.

At the same time, an alarmed lifeguard came in from the lot and notified management of the billowing black smoke pouring out of the vehicle. The supervisor sprang into action and went out to investigate.

When she reached the source of the smoke, she saw a very pregnant mom attempting to get into the SUV to remove her children’s car seats. The supervisor convinced the crying, distraught woman to back away from the Explorer and moved her to a safe spot.

Moments later, the hood area of the smoking vehicle burst into flames. Still staying cool, the supervisor told one guard to get a fire extinguisher and another to call the fire department. In her rush, the guard with the extinguisher tried to jump over the entry stairs to save time and injured her foot.

All of this was happening during the normal lifeguard lunch break, so there were plenty of staff members to deal with the onslaught of related safety issues.

Before it was all over, though, even concession staff members had to take a hand in crowd control. Some stayed at the front door and headed off looky-loos. Some had to restrain guests who wanted to rush out and move their cars. Others had to direct cars that were still entering the lot away from the increasingly dangerous situation.

Once the supervisor finally got the extinguisher, it became apparent the small kitchen variety they had on hand wasn’t up to the task. Still, when she realized the fire was coming from under the car, she actually lay halfway under the SUV to try to put the fire out!

It wasn’t until the fire department arrived on the scene that the flames were finally extinguished. When the smoke cleared, the Explorer was totaled, along with five other cars, four of which were lifeguards’ vehicles!

The front bumper on one melted to the asphalt; on another, the back end melted like wax.

Needless to say, this is one overheating incident we’ll never forget!