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Subaru keeps silent

FRISCO – Don and Jane Peterson and their neighbors lost their homes on Alpine Drive in May to a fire which started in the Peterson’s 2002 Subaru Forester. Six months later, the Petersons are upset.

“What makes me the most angry is that Subaru has not bothered to contact us, even today,” said Don Peterson.

In the early morning hours of May 6, the Petersons were awakened by their fire alarm. They had to escape out their bedroom window into the backyard, as both floors of the front of the building were on fire.



It took 42 firefighters two hours to contain the fire and another two hours to extinguish it. The fire burned all three units of the triplex and fire officials estimated it caused $750,000 in damages.

Local and private investigators agreed that the fire appeared to have started in the Petersons’ 2002 Forester, which was parked in front of their central unit and underneath a balcony.



Jeff Berino, assistant fire chief at Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, said the greatest amount of damage was on the car’s underside or dashboard. The dashboard was destroyed in the fire, and burn patterns indicated the fire started in the front of the car.

But how the fire started was a mystery then – and still is now.

Two days after the fire, investigators with Subaru and the Petersons’ insurance company shrink-wrapped the vehicle and took it to a laboratory for further examination, “which could include -raying the parts” to test the integrity of the wiring and for malfunctioning, Berino said.

As far as the Petersons know, however, the car sat in a warehouse in Denver for more than four months before Subaru examined it. The couple was told Subaru investigators examined the car Sept. 18.

Almost two months later, they have yet to be contacted by Subaru regarding the investigation – and it’s not that the Petersons haven’t tried.

Don Peterson said he contacted Subaru’s regional sales manager in July, who said she would contact the legal department and get back to them. She hasn’t. He also has tried to contact the central headquarters in New Jersey both by phone and by e-mail.

“Their last words to us were, “no comment,'” Jane said.

“The thing that concerns me the most (is) Subaru has not notified its customers there’s a potential problem,” Don said.

“We want them to take responsibility – find out what happened and let people know so someone doesn’t get killed or injured badly,” Jane said. “If it hadn’t been for our smoke detector, we wouldn’t be here right now.”

Adding to their worries, the Petersons said they heard two other Foresters were involved in fires in Denver – though they don’t know any details.

Don Peterson since has notified the Center for Auto Safety and the National Transportation Board, in addition to U.S. Senators Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell and U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis.

“We’re just trying to make people aware that Subaru is not responding,” Jane said.

A Subaru official told the Summit Daily News he has no details about the investigation.

“Our insurance company is investigating it,” said Mike Whelan, national manager of Subaru’s corporate communications. “One thing that was noted when the vehicle was inspected, there was a CB radio installed in the vehicle. Based on that information, we feel it merits further investigation.”

He would not give a time-frame for the investigation.

The Petersons are skeptical about Subaru’s response.

“That was ruled out by Subaru’s investigator as well as State Farm’s investigator,” Jane said.

The Petersons said their Forester was making strange noises shortly before the fire.

“Whenever you started it up, it sounded like a John Deere tractor,” Don said, adding that he had was scheduled to bring the car into the mechanics the day of the fire – which was exactly six months from the day the couple purchased the car.

Though “we didn’t buy it at 1:30 in the morning,” Don said and laughed.

In the meantime, the Petersons wait. As do some of their friends, who had planned to get Subarus before the fire and now are waiting for the investigation results.

In fact, one of the couple’s daughters, who has owned a Subaru Legacy – which she loves – is planning to sell her car because of the way Subaru has treated her parents, Jane said.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or lsnyder@summitdaily.com


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