Family flees SUV seconds before it goes up in flames

SAN DIEGO -- A Spring Valley family said they escaped their SUV just seconds before it burst into flames.

The Klamms told FOX 5 their 2017 RAV4 is fairly new and they are the only ones who have owned it. After it recently caught fire, they said they dug around and found this was not the first time their model has gone up in flames.

Shaun Klamm said the vehicle caught fire last Tuesday when he was late getting his 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son to school. He went back home to grab his cell phone he thought he had forgotten. After discovering it was in his pocket to begin with, they laughed and got back on their way.

“Halfway when we were in the middle of turning around, I ended up smelling smoke and then next thing I know the whole steering wheel is smoking and I’m yelling at my dad to pull over,” 12-year-old Kaelynne Klamm said.

“We turn around real quick, park the car, jumped out and as we jumped out the whole dashboard caught in flames,” her father said.

Firefighters were there within minutes and quickly put the flames out.

“Everything from beginning to end was maybe three, three and a half minutes,” Shaun Klamm said.

His wife, Stephani, was at work and rushed home in panic when she found out.

“By the time I arrived here at home, the whole entire car just gone,” Stephani Klamm said. “I can’t even describe the feeling of relief to see your family OK once you see a vehicle like that.”

The Klamms said they bought the SUV brand new from a dealership less than two years ago. They said that in recent months it started acting funny so they took it in it to have it checked out.

“You go to them with your concerns that something's going on with your vehicle -- the stations are resetting, the automatic lights aren’t working anymore -- and they tell you, ‘oh, it’s fine. It’s just a little glitch,” she said.

The Klamms said they began researching and found the RAV4, along with other Toyota vehicles, have been recalled before due to fire risks.

Currently, according to Toyota's website ,there are no "open safety recalls or service campaigns" for their 2017 model.

Toyota sent FOX 5 the following statement:

"The safety and security of our customers are top priorities. The owner of the involved 2017 RAV4  contacted the Toyota Customer Experience Center (1-800 line) on March 12. We are currently attempting to inspect the vehicle. Since we have not inspected the vehicle, we do not have anything else to share at this point."

As the company looks into the situation, the Klamms are sharing what happened to them in hopes of warning others.

“It’s just a scary feeling because it’s like, what if we were trapped in the car and weren’t able to get out?” Kaelynne Klamm said.

“My daughter saved my family’s life," her mother said.  "If she wasn’t alert then it would just be me today."

The SUV caught fire at a time when Shaun Klamm said he would typically either be dropping the kids off at school or sitting in traffic.

According to San Miguel Fire & Rescue Department, the exact cause of the fire is undetermined.

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