Vacation ends when camper van explodes

Florida couple and their dog escape safely as six-week trip ends with “kaboom”
A van caught fire and exploded at a Council Bluffs gas station on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021.
A van caught fire and exploded at a Council Bluffs gas station on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021.(Brent Weber / WOWT)
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 5:17 PM CDT
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COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) - A Florida couple’s summer vacation came to a shocking end when their camper van caught fire after they stopped to check for smoke. Dennis and Linda Fitch of Port St. Joe, Florida pulled off the freeway for a gas stop when Linda began smelling something.

”I heard a couple pops, and just as I came out, it was just, one big ‘kaboom’, I mean it exploded,” said nearby resident Scott Mohr. “Then it was black smoke, and (the van was) completely engulfed.”

Couple's vacation ends with van fire
Couple's vacation ends with van fire(Linda Fitch)

The couple pulled their van over at a Council Bluffs gas station on the corner of 35th Street and Avenue A. Linda Fitch can be heard weeping as she recorded footage on her mobile phone of the van burning. They were able to grab her laptop and their dog JoJo, but that was all they could salvage. Neither was injured.

The couple spoke off camera to WOWT, asking that Mohr, who offered the couple respite while they called insurance and family, explain what they told him.

“The wife smelled smoke so they pulled into the gas station here,” Mohr said. “He looked underneath and didn’t see any fire or anything, and Linda opened the back door and it went up in flames.”

The Fitchs spent the night in an area hotel and planned to fly home to Florida in the morning. They said they owned the camper van for five years, and it was customized for comfort.

Council Bluffs Fire Department Fire Investigator Rick Bradshaw said the investigation could take a week or two to complete.

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