A truck fire rendered a local couple homeless Monday as they were driving to work.
Sharon and James Clark had been living in their 1983 GMC SUV and working odd jobs to get by, but their most recent assignment proved to be more than their truck’s engine could handle.
On their way to UC Berkeley to distribute fliers for discount subscription rates on the New York Times, James Clark spotted smoke escaping from underneath his hood.
“I put in some transmission fluid and started driving again,” Clark said. Smelling burning rubber, Clark pulled over at the corner of Hopkins and Gilman Streets and asked a passerby to call the Berkeley Fire Department.
The Fire Department fielded the call at 11:01 a.m., arrived three minutes later and extinguished the blaze within ten minutes.
Deputy Fire Chief David Orth said the fire was located in the engine compartment. He said there was little risk of an explosion because the fire had not spread to the gas tank, shock absorbers or wheels.
Firefighters managed to salvage the couple’s possessions from the back of the truck as well as the fliers they were hired to distribute. Police are working with the couple to safeguard their belongings while they seek shelter.
Clark said he didn’t have insurance to pay for repairs and that he hoped the city would junk it for him.
“I didn’t think it was going to catch on fire,” said Clark. “I was hoping for the best, but it turned out for the worst.”
Orth said the fire department did not receive the emergency call immediately because the caller dialed 911 from his cell phone, instead of from a telephone. Because cell phone calls are usually routed to the California Highway Patrol via cellular towers on highways, Orth urged Berkeley residents to call the fire department directly at 981-5900 when reporting an emergency on their cell phones.