The Nissan SUV caught fire. Investigating the automotive industry: watch the video

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A Nissan SUV caught fire and went out of control in a Maryland driveway before firefighters arrived, startling a family and sending them fleeing their home.

Vicki and Phillip Hill of Bethesda told USA TODAY on Friday that their 2015 Nissan Murano caught fire around 5:30 a.m. on May 14 while they and their three children were sleeping.

Doorbell footage shows the Murano smoking under the hood before it catches fire and causes the car’s airbags to explode, waking the Hills and their three children, 5-year-old twins and a 7-year-old.

“I thought someone was trying to break into the house with a sledgehammer,” Vicki told USA TODAY. “Luckily for us, our neighbor’s dog woke her up early, I think, because he smelled smoke. She went to take him outside, saw our car was on fire and called 911 about four minutes before I did.”

Although the fire was scary, it could have been much worse

The family considers themselves lucky that the SUV was parked outside facing the street, instead of in the garage next to the gas line. If the car was in the garage, they were sure the house would explode.

Vicki said the family was in the process of finishing the garage so they could park their cars in it but things were late, which is why they parked the SUV in the driveway.

Now, she said they likely won’t park cars in the garage again.

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A family had to pay rent on their house after a car fire

Vicki has a Mercedes Benz parked near a Nissan Murano. “It’s undriveable right now,” she said.

“The entire right side is damaged,” she said. “All the wheels were damaged and the fire was very hot…Parts of the driveway and garage door were damaged.”

The family uses a rental car and wanted Nissan to get one for them, but the company initially refused, Hills said. Vicki said the company eventually offered them a loan on Friday afternoon, but it wouldn’t be ready until Monday or Tuesday.

Nissan has opened an investigation into the incident, the company told USA TODAY in a statement on Friday.

“A technician visited the Hills home and conducted an initial inspection before moving the vehicle,” Nissan said. “We believe he was subject to recall but cannot make any further comment on this specific incident until the investigation is completed.”

The Hills said they were initially told it would take Nissan between six and eight weeks to evaluate the debris in the driveway.

After the family spoke to the local TV station Fox 5 DCNissan told them there would be an investigator in the area who could come and evaluate the situation. Hills told USA TODAY that an investigator took a look at the car on Wednesday and took it and stored it elsewhere.

The car has a history of recalls

Since 2015, there have been several recalls of the Murano.

Three of the recalls involve fires, including the most recent one filed on November 8, 2019. National Highway Traffic Safety AdministrationA fluid leak in the anti-lock brake system (ABS) pump can cause a short circuit, increasing the risk of fire in your SUV.

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Philip said back in 2016, there was a recall for a pump on a Nissan Murano. Take it to the service center to have it worked on.

When the fire department came out to address the latest incident, they mentioned call-outs but the Hills are unsure what caused the fire.

“It could have been the recall or it could have been another issue with the car,” she said. “We won’t know until Nissan completes its investigation.”

The family bought the car new and it only had 62,000 miles on it, Hills said. Because of the damage to their cars, they fear they will soon be responsible for making payments on two cars.

Children are exposed to psychological trauma due to a car fire

No one was physically hurt by the fire, but the Hills said their children were not sleeping and were really scared.

“They’re terrified every time they hear the sirens,” Vicki told USA TODAY. “They are crying.” “We finally got this rental car. They’re afraid to get in it. They worry at night that the other car will catch fire now.”

Vicki said she will never let her children park their cars in the garage when they are old enough to drive, citing the psychological impact of the fire, which she said is lingering because of the damage that is still visible.

“We want to fix up our house and our driveway so the kids don’t look at it and remember it all the time,” she said. “You can still smell him in there even though the car is gone.”

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As of Friday afternoon, the family is waiting to hear from Nissan. After the investigator appeared on Wednesday, the company said it would be in touch within two weeks.

“We are waiting to see what happens with the investigation,” Philip said. “What would be great to hear is, ‘We’d love to help you get a loaner car.'”

“The fact that this happened is very concerning, but the biggest thing is the way the company handled it,” Vicky said. “If they acted like they cared at all it could have made a difference for us, I think.”

They said they wanted to share their story so other families would know how this could affect them.

“These things don’t happen,” Philip said. “It’s not common. People need to be aware.”

Saleen Martin is a reporter for USA TODAY’s NOW staff. She’s from Norfolk, Virginia – 757. Follow her on Twitter at @SallenMartin Or send her an email at [email protected].

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