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Audi 'just poofed into flames' in Santa Rosa

  • George Gatton of Sonoma reacts to his burned Audi, Tuesday March 29, 2011 after it caught fire behind Adel's Restaurant at College and Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2011

Black smoke poured from a vehicle fire Tuesday, sending up a thick funnel at College and Mendocino avenues in Santa Rosa.

George Gatton, 21, of Sonoma was stopped in a line of traffic at a red light at about 4:45 p.m. when he noticed smoke seeping from the hood of his Audi A4 sedan. He pulled into the parking lot behind Adel's Restaurant and opened the hood.

"I saw a tiny flame under the battery," Gatton said. "I went into the restaurant to get some water."

Gatton had just left the restaurant when 10-to-15-foot flames began shooting from the car.

"It just poofed into flames," said Pete Wallon, 61, of Santa Rosa who was walking on nearby Lincoln Street. "The windows were the loud part, they made a big snap."

Gatton, a wine bottler from Sonoma, ran across the street and called 911.

Firefighters quickly doused the flames, said Capt. Matt Devine of the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

The spectacle drew a crowd from a nearby motel and passersby, however the incident was "just a typical vehicle fire," Devine said.

The front half of the Audi was charred, its hood crumpled from the heat. The windshield and side windows were blown out.

Gatton waited for a roommate to pick him up.

"Honestly, my first thought was, &‘How am I going to get to work tomorrow?'" Gatton said.


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