Central Pierce Fire & Rescue respond to car fire on Wheeler Street. Photo by McKenna Morin

BROOKE THAMES; Editor-in-Chief; thamesbe@plu.edu

A Pacific Lutheran University student’s car burst into flames around 2 p.m. May 16 on Wheeler Street, less than a block away from campus. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Junior Delaney Hills was driving to class when she heard popping sounds and noticed smoke rising from the bottom of the vehicle. She pulled over and promptly got out of the car before calling 911. Hills said her 2002 Toyota Echo caught fire in the middle of the call.

“It [exploded] like, ‘Boom,’ and then there were just flames,” Hills said.

Larry Rankos, who lives on Wheeler, said he heard the explosion and came out to the street to ensure Hills was safe.

“It’s crazy. I’m just glad she’s okay, that’s the main thing,” Rankos said.

Junior Delaney Hills stands with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue responders beside her Toyota Echo, destroyed by fire. Photo by McKenna Morin

Hills said Rankos was first on the scene, followed by PLU Campus Safety, Pierce County Sheriff and Central Pierce Fire & Rescue. Rankos provided Hills with tissues and a soda while she waited for firefighters to extinguish the car. Hills was soon joined by her father and Associate Professor of Art & Design Spencer Ebbinga, as well as a number of onlookers.

A statement from Campus Safety Director Greg Premo praised Hills for acting calmly and confirmed no reported injuries to Hills or others involved. Hills made it out of the vehicle with her keys and cell phone, but said her backpack and laptop were trapped in the flames.

“I’m in shock…absolute shock. I cannot believe what happened,” Hills said. “I’m happy it didn’t happen faster. I’m happy the fire didn’t start while I was in [the car].”


Correction: In an earlier edition of this piece, confusing wording insinuated Professor Spencer Ebbinga is Hills’s father. 

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