By Jonathan Deal
A postal carrier’s vehicle caught on fire Thursday afternoon while on a delivery route in Country Club Acres in Athens. Eugenia Ridinger, of Anderson, fled her vehicle when she noticed smoke billowing out of the driver’s side hood.
Harriette Rost, a nearby resident, came to the aid of Ridinger with a fire extinguisher. Rost’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Julia Pitts, made the 911 to alert the fire department.
“The mail lady knocked on my door and asked for a fire extinguisher,” Rost said. “It was smoking under the hood. We tried to get the hood up, but it was too hot. So, we just started spraying up under the vehicle.”
Athens fire department received the call at 3:29 p.m. and Engine No. 3 was on the scene within six minutes to extinguish the flames. Station One Battalion Chief Torrey Downs said the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited was fully involved in flames when they arrived on the scene.
“It probably started in the engine compartment,” Downs said. “Generally, it is rare for new vehicles like that. Some of the older ones have cooling system problems and can catch fire.”
Downs said Ridinger had been running her normal route all day and did not notice a problem until stopping at 1502 Ridgedale Drive to deliver mail. Once it was apparent the household extinguisher would not put out the flames, Ridinger and Rost began salvaging the mail from the jeep.
“We grabbed all the mail out of the back seat and got it out of harm’s way,” Rost said. “Nobody was hurt, we got her cell phone, purse and her scanner. It was on fire for maybe five minutes to get like that. We were scared it was going to blow.”