William Redd spent the day after July Fourth recovering a few personal items from his home, which was damaged by smoke and fire June 29.
Firefighters say the blaze spread after his 2002 Ford Expedition caught fire while parked in his garage. The fire caused heavy smoke damage to his Martinez home on Brooks Drive.
"I've been lost since Thursday," Redd said July 5. "We're just so out of place right now."
He said that he and his wife, Donna, and 11-year-old son, Richard, have been staying with relatives since the fire but that their insurance company probably will pay for a hotel room or furnished apartment for them while the home is renovated and salvageable items are cleaned.
The company hired to clean the Redds' belongings, including furniture, photos and clothing, said the process could take four to six months.
"It is depressing," Redd said.
He said his wife, who owns the sport utility vehicle, received a recall notice from Ford Motor Co. in December about the Expedition's speed control deactivation switch, a type of switch that Ford installed in millions of its vehicles between 1992 to 2003. In February, the Redds said, they received a second notice stating that the part to repair the switch was not in stock and that they would be contacted when it was.
Ford voluntarily recalled 3.8 million vehicles in September to correct a speed control systems interaction that could cause the speed control deactivation switch to overheat and lead to an under-hood fire, stated Kristen Kinley, a Ford Motor Co. spokeswoman, in an e-mail.
The September recall involved 1994-2002 Ford F-150 pickups, Ford Expeditions, Lincoln Navigators and Ford Broncos, according to Kinley.
Redd said that in March he took the SUV to an area Ford dealership for a transmission problem and the family was told the switch problem was fixed; however, the cruise control, operated by the switch, did not work on an April trip to Florida, Redd said.
Honey Shore, the Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue spokeswoman, said the fire began with the Expedition, though the cause is still under investigation. The state Fire Marshal's Office was contacted to investigate the fire's cause but has not begun investigating.
Olivia Sims says she knows what the Redds are going through. In October 2004, her 2000 Ford Expedition caught fire while parked in the garage of her Springlakes subdivision home. No one was injured in the blaze that destroyed their home.
"I lost a lot of valuable things. I lost everything," Mims said of items such as baby and wedding photos. "Everything went down. Ford really needs to stand up and do something about it."
Mims said she received recall notices to repair the switch a few months after her home burned. She and her husband, Darryl, have rebuilt their home on the same Ridgetop Drive site and are in litigation with Ford.
"I haven't driven a Ford ever since my house burned down," Mims said.
In June 2005, a 1998 Ford Explorer caught fire while parked in a garage on Bakers Ferry Road, Shore said. The fire was contained to the garage, and no one was injured.
Glenn Allen, a spokesman for the state Fire Marshal's Office, said his office investigates vehicle fires upon request of local fire departments, and does not code each fire investigation report with what type of vehicle burned. He said he does remember several recent vehicle fires involving Ford trucks and sport utility vehicles.
In an investigation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Ford found that "brake fluid might leak through the speed control deactivation switch into the speed control system electrical components, potentially corroding them," according to a news release from Ford at the time of the recall. "In rare cases, the corrosion in the electrical components can lead to increasing resistance and higher electrical current flow through the system. Together, these conditions could lead to an overheating and, possibly, a fire at the switch."
Martinez-Columbia Fire Chief Doug Cooper said the state Fire Marshal's Office was called but did not investigate the Redds' fire because it was not suspicious.
"The origin was in the engine compartment area of the vehicle," Cooper said. The Redds' insurance company probably will investigate further the cause of the fire. "Our official ruling (on the cause) is undetermined."
Kinley said in e-mailed comments that it is important for fires to be investigated on a case-by-case basis and for people to remember that vehicle fires occur for a variety of reason, including after-market accessories, previous accident damage, faulty repairs, lack of maintenance and even arson.
Redd said the threat of fire was not made clear in the recall letters his family received.
"If they would have said your car could burn down, she (my wife) would have been ready to get rid of the Expedition," said Redd, who works nights and was preparing to leave for work when the fire was noticed by a passer-by just after 8 p.m. "If it was that important, they'd have that part in stock.''
Redd said he is not one to sue to make profit, but he would like to contact Ford and see whether the company will at least replace what he lost, including his son's $2,000 to $3,000 worth of hockey equipment that was stored in the garage.
Redd said he plans to renovate and move back into the home he has lived in for 14 years.
"I just don't want to see any person (hurt). This is not the end of it. There's going to be another one down the line do the same thing," he said.
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