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Car fires more common than you might think, millions of vehicles labeled as fire danger on road

Cars go up in flames and they are not running
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Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-16 06:00:00-05

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. -- A Mini Cooper burst into flames seconds after owner Denyse Reveiro smelled smoke, turned off the motor and got out.

Car fires take place every few hours in the United States. That’s more than 287,000 vehicle fires a year.

In Lakeland, Florida, Amelia Simpson's Hyundai went up in flames two hours after she parked it at her job.

WCPO news partners WFTS obtained a database from the automotive watchdog group Safety Research and Strategies. They found more than 300 recalls related to fire dangers in various makes and models going back 10 years. That's more than 42 million affected cars.

In Pasco, another Hyundai owner, Glenn Nunamacher said his parked ride also burned to the ground two hours after he shut it off. In all three of these cases the fire appears to have started in the engine.

The manufacturer often sends out its own investigator, as it did with both Hyundai fires.

“It is not possible at this time to conclude definitively this fire was the result of a vehicle manufacturing defect,” Hyundai said in an email.

And WFTS found no fire danger-related recall on the Hyundai Elantra. But in the case of the Mini Cooper, BMW recalled 89,000 of them in 2012 over a smoldering water pump issue; a recall Reveiro’s documents show she had repaired.

The cause of Reveiro’s fire and whether it is related to the recalled part remains under investigation. While there's no way to determine the level of fire danger in all cars, searching your make and model for recalls can help keep you and your family safe.

Just go to safercar.gov and plug in your VIN.