“I didn’t have to wait long for the stress part of the day,” joked driver Peter Cavanaugh as he stood beside the road near his burned out car.
Cavanaugh, active Mountain Democrat, well-known author and radio personality, and his wife Eileen were southbound on Highway 41 heading over Deadwood just after 12:30 p.m. Peter was keeping a close eye on the gauges of their four-door Buick sedan because the car had been acting up recently.
About one-quarter of a mile from the top of the hill the car started making a noise, and Peter began looking for a place to pull over. The embankment on the west side of the road is very steep, and after about 150 yards, he found a slightly wider spot along a drainage area and pulled off the roadway. As he was pulling over, the car died and smoke started billowing out from under the hood.
Cal Fire Engine 4254 and Madera County Engine 12 responded, along with CHP and Madera County Sheriff’s deputies. Both lanes were blocked as firefighters worked to extinguish the flames, and the fire was contained by 12:53 p.m.
The Buick’s entire engine compartment was destroyed along with portions of the interior. The fire did not spread into the surrounding vegetation. One lane traffic control was put in place and the roadway was reopened to normal traffic by about 1:40 p.m.
Peter and Eileen came away from the incident unscathed and with their usual good humor. The Buick did not fare so well.