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Truck Bursts Into Flames in Clifton

Tuesday morning was a hot time in the Town of Clifton, when a one-ton box truck delivering flowers caught fire and burned. The driver was unhurt, but the truck was a total loss.

THE INCIDENT occurred around 9:05 a.m. after the driver made a routine delivery of flowers from Northern Virginia Wholesale Flowers in Alexandria to the local florist shop, A Flower Blooms in Clifton.

Returning to his truck, parked outside the store on Main Street, he saw smoke coming from underneath the hood and tried to open it. Then the blaze took hold.

"He saw there was fire on the ground, underneath the engine compartment," said Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Dan Schmidt. "Almost at the same moment, the truck burst into flames. The fire from underneath the hood quickly engulfed the engine compartment and spread to the passenger area."

Schmidt said the driver called 911, and several local residents alerted the Clifton Fire Station, around the corner, on Chapel Road. Responding firefighters extinguished the flames in a matter of minutes.

"They were able to prevent the fire from reaching the truck's cargo area," he said. "However, because the flames rose so high, some insulation on nearby telephone wires was melted, but the fire didn't burn through the wires."

JUDY MCNAMARA, owner of the florist shop, said the driver — a man in his 50s named Leon — dropped off her flowers just before the fire. He brought her several hundred dollars' worth of flowers — snapdragons, irises, tulips, gerbera daisies, green-button mums, roses, etc. — to tide her over for the next two or three days.

"There were well over 200-300 flowers," said McNamara. She said it's an especially busy week for her, with Administrative Professionals Day on Wednesday. But she was sorry about the truck fire.

"Thank goodness, Leon wasn't hurt," she said. "He's a nice guy and has delivered out here a hundred times. He had more deliveries after mine, so he opened the back door to get the rest of the flowers out of the smoking truck, and I guess it let in enough air and oxygen to spark [the fire]. The flames went up 20-30 feet."

Local residents and business owners came outside to see what had happened and, said McNamara, "Someone said to Leon, 'Wow, God must have been watching out for you.' And he told us he'd been listening to gospel music in the truck."

Afterward, she said, his employer had to bring him a new truck so he could finish his deliveries. Said McNamara: "I'm just glad he wasn't in that truck or was driving down the road when it happened, or it would have been much worse for him."