OWATONNA — Tim Ackman ran into a nasty surprise Tuesday evening on the way home from his daughter’s softball practice.

“We were driving by the gas station, and everyone was waving at us because our car was on fire,” he said.

Ackman was eastbound on 26th Street Northeast near Manthey Park when his Jeep SUV caught fire. After being alerted to the flames, he pulled into the driveway of Grace Baptist Church, where he and his daughter, Elyn, were able to escape the vehicle unharmed. By the time responders from the Owatonna Police and Fire Departments arrived, the vehicle was fully engulfed in flame.

Ackman’s guess is that a fuel line came loose while the engine was running, sparking the fire, which destroyed the engine block and interior of the passenger compartment. Fire equipment operator Todd Ulrich said he understood Ackman had been doing some work in the engine earlier in the day, which likely led to the fire.

“We got her stuff out, my stuff out. I don’t think there was anything important in there,” Ackman said. “It wasn’t much worry. It’s an old car.”

The fire was reported shortly before 8:15 p.m., and officials had cleared the scene and were departing shortly after 8:30. Dean’s Westside Towing was called to remove the SUV.

William Morris is a reporter for the Owatonna People’s Press. He can be reached at 444-2372; follow him on Twitter @OPPWilliam

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