A three-alarm fire that damaged a San Carlos warehouse containing memorabilia belonging to rocker Neil Youngstarted in a vintage car that he had converted into a hybrid vehicle, authorities said Tuesday.
The Nov. 9 blaze was reported at 2:55 a.m. by security personnel at the warehouse Young rents at 593 Quarry Road west of Highway 101. Firefighters found flames shooting through the roof and doused the blaze within 15 minutes, authorities said.
An investigation determined that the fire started in a 1959 Lincoln Continental and spread to the warehouse. Young had outfitted the car with electric batteries and a biodiesel-powered generator as part of his company called LincVolt.
The company promotes the conversion of gas-guzzlingcars into vehicles that run on alternative energy.
Young showed off his Lincoln at the 2008 Salesforce.com Dreamforce conference at San Francisco's Moscone Center. At 19 1/2 feet, the car was the longest one built in its era.
In a 2008 interview, Young said his dream was to inspire people to repower or retrofit their existing cars, increasing fuel efficiency and reducing the world's manufacturing footprint in the process. He had already converted two of his other cars, a Mercedes-Benz and a Hummer, to run on used vegetable oil.
Young said he bought his Lincoln in the East Bay "about 15 years ago, after it had been in a domestic dispute. The guy's wife had poured hydraulic fluid all over it."
For short trips, the converted car got around 40 mpg, compared with 9 or 10 for the original, gas-powered model, Young said.
The LincVolt had been severely damaged in the fire, the singer-songwriter said in a statement.
"We are still investigating the exact cause, although it appears to be an operator error that occurred in an untested part of the charging system," Young said. "We do know that the car has been operating perfectly for almost 2,000 miles and the system in question would not be in use while driving the car. We are investigating the components involved with plug-in charging."
Young also thanked the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department for "doing a first-class job" in saving other items he stored at the warehouse.
Young kept guitars, paintings, vintage cars and cases of other memorabilia at the 10,000-square-foot warehouse. About 70 percent of the belongings have been salvaged or are salvageable, fire officials said.
The blaze caused at least $1 million in damage, authorities said.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010