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Freak fire destroys RCHS truck

ENCINITAS — Rancho Coastal Humane Society is looking for assistance to replace one of its trucks that was irreparably burned in a freak fire over the weekend.

The Humane Society used the 2002 GMC pickup truck — which had a crew cab and extended bed — for everything from transporting litters of kittens to the animal group’s pet evacuation trailer. With more than 100,000 miles on the truck, it was in need of frequent maintenance for fluid leaks and a dead battery caused by an ignition problem.

The fire occurred late Sunday when a neighbor who helps the Humane Society vehicle was trying to determine the source of a gas leak and, according to Humane Society spokesman John Van Zante, static electricity ignited the gasoline, first on the handyman’s pants, and then to the rest of the car.

The man suffered minor injuries on his legs. The truck was burned beyond repair.

“When the fire got on his pants, he jumped back and tried to take put the fire out,” Van Zante said. “When he got up, though, he realized the truck was on fire, and then he heard a boom. At that point, the fire had spread too far and there was nothing he could do but call the fire department.”

Van Zante said the vehicle was insured, but said the insurance payout will likely not be enough to purchase a new vehicle. This has prompted the Humane Society to reach out to the public for help.

“It’s not like we have insurance that will pay for a new truck,” Van Zante said. “If you have 100,000 miles on a 12-year-old truck, what you get from that is going to be fairly inconsequential.”

The Humane Society has two other vehicles, but one, a van, is used for transporting animals and is frequently in use, and the other is used for picking up donations for the society’s thrift shop.

Anyone interested in assisting the Humane Society is asked to call Nick Winfrey, the vice president of planning and development, at  (760) 753-6413.

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