The 2009 Jeep allegedly responsible for the Chariot Fire
  • The 2009 Jeep allegedly responsible for the Chariot Fire
  • from Cal Fire
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Members of a Shriners community located near Mount Laguna, where cabins and buildings were destroyed in the 2013 Chariot Fire, have added the Chrysler Group to the list of entities it is suing for damages.

The massive wildfire burned over 7000 acres in the Cleveland National Forest, including 100 cabins and a historic dining hall inside the 25-acre Al Bahr Shrine Camp, located near Sunrise Highway in eastern San Diego County.

Investigators from Cal Fire found that the Chariot Fire was likely caused by dried brush that became lodged underneath Bureau of Land Management field officer Jason Peters’s government-issued 2009 Jeep Wrangler. In June of this year, insurance company USAA sued the auto manufacturer for failing to issue recalls for the Jeep's defective skid plates.

Several members of the Shriners group are now following suit.

"The subject Jeep was defectively designed and manufactured because debris from outside the vehicle is easily susceptible to getting caught and being collected in the skid plates and undercarriage of the Jeep near or around the catalytic converters, exhaust system, and other parts of the Jeep," reads the lawsuit. "The subject Jeep was defective for other reasons related to the ignition of fire in, near, or around the engine compartment, exhaust system and other areas of the vehicle."

According to the lawsuit, the Chrysler Group was aware of the defective skid plates. In 2012 the auto company recalled 67,877 2010 Jeep Wranglers over fire hazards caused by debris that became lodged near skid plates and ignited from fumes and heat released by the catalytic converters.

In a 2012 letter, Chrysler notified owners of the potential hazards.

“The transmission skid plate on your vehicle (VIN: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx) may allow debris to collect in the undercarriage of the vehicle under certain driving conditions. If an excessive amount of debris collects in the undercarriage, the catalytic converter could ignite the debris, causing an underbody fire without warning."

In the lawsuit, attorneys for the Shriners say the design of the 2009 and 2010 Jeep models were very similar.

"Despite the owner notification for the 2010 Jeep Wrangler recall and skid plate to skid bar replacement instructions, Chrysler and [the] dealership negligently failed to notify owners of any other Jeep models including 2009 despite the same or substantially similar fire hazard due to the same or substantially similar design defect."

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Comments

Twister July 6, 2015 @ 8:05 p.m.

Dorian,

We need more links to sources and details, such as how the Jeep actually started the fire.

Thanks, Twister

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Visduh July 7, 2015 @ 9:16 a.m.

The Jeep division of Chrysler has had a series of design flops in recent years. If it had not been for the poor publicity that Toyota has had in regard to runaway acceleration, there would have been more attention paid to Jeep's failings. This is just one more example of how the venerable brand of tough off-road vehicle has been failing to deliver.

In this case, though, the fact that the BLM operator of the Jeep at first lied about where he had been and about the fire didn't help the investigation. Then later he quit the BLM, and has refused to cooperate with investigators.

While I don't know much about such things, I'd say an auto insurer suing a manufacturer is highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented. The justification has to be that USAA has paid substantial claims for fires in Jeeps that were due to the design defect. I hope that we can follow this story as it develops and concludes.

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Twister July 7, 2015 @ 9:44 a.m.

Thanks for the good reporting, Vis,

I'm also curious about the fire investigation, readily available to working reporters who are supposed to winnow the essence out of the chaff (npi).

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Twister July 7, 2015 @ 9:47 a.m.

Thanks for the good reporting, Vis,

I'm also curious about the fire investigation, readily available to working reporters who are supposed to winnow the essence out of the chaff (npi). For those who want to check the facts, links should be provided, or, if unavailable, source citations.

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