NPS Digest is reporting this morning that a 1964 Cobra sports car, valued at $800,000, was completely consumed by a fire in the Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel this past Monday afternoon.
The fire was reported to the park just after 5 p.m. and the park’s structural fire engine company responded, along with the Springdale/Rockville fire department and two wildland fire engines. A Type Six engine, with a 250 gallon tank and a pump capacity of 150 gallons per minute, entered the tunnel with two firefighters wearing self contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs). A second Type Six engine, two Type One engines, and the wildland engines provided backup for the initial attack engine.
Firefighters with the initial attack engine were able to successfully contain and extinguish the fully engulfed sports car. The two occupants of the car had found relative safety in two of the tunnel’s gallery windows. All other vehicles and people exited the tunnel prior to the initial attack efforts.
The two occupants were transported by ambulance to a local hospital, while the tunnel and road were closed for two-and-a-half hours. The insurance value of the sports car was reported to be $800,000.
Construction of the tunnel, which is just over a mile long, began in the late 1920's and was completed in 1930. At the time the tunnel was dedicated, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the United States. In addition to concerns with the potential for multiple vehicles and people trapped inside the tunnel, responders were aware that wooden timbers provide structural support and prevent rock fall in the interior of the tunnel. The NPS engine company conducts yearly training sessions in the tunnel and had determined that a smaller engine would provide better access and egress from the tunnel in the event of a vehicle fire. Firefighters were also aware that afternoon winds would likely vent smoke away from them as they approached. A protective coating along the walls in the area of the fire protected the tunnel’s wood timbers.
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