A General Motors SUV caught fire and heavily damaged a Wisconsin home even as federal investigators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stepped up their investigation of allegations that some GM vehicles are likely to catch fire and burn. The vehicles can catch fire even with the ignition turned off, according to federal safety investigators.

The owner of the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe reported to ConsumerAffairs.com that her vehicle "just lit on fire" in the middle of the night. "The vehicle was sitting in our driveway for 10 hours," the owner said. "No one drove it. No one moved it. No one even sat in it."

An explosion caused by the burning Tahoe rousted the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin family from their beds. "We had just enough time to evacuate our two small children before my husband grabbed a garden hose and tried to contain the fire so it wouldn't burn our house to the ground," the mother told us.

The Chevrolet Tahoe was parked within 5 feet of the owner's house. "We were very lucky no one was hurt," she said, "but what will happen to the next person?"

The Tahoe was destroyed and a second vehicle received several thousand dollars in damages. "Our garage door is melted because of the extreme heat. We just had our house painted and now will have to have that side repainted. Our driveway will need to be cut out because of the car melting to it," the owner said.

"We will not build a new garage because I will never feel safe parking my cars in our garage," the Tahoe owner told us.

Before the Elkhart Lake SUV fire occurred, federal safety investigators had received two consumer complaints that a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe and a GMC Yukon caught fire while parked in home garages with the engines off.

The truck owners reported to NHTSA that both homes were badly damaged. Two people were injured in one of the fires.

The federal safety agency is aware of "41 non-crash engine compartment fires" in the GM trucks and SUVs including 8 fires that may have caused significant property damage, according to the NHTSA Web site.

The NHTSA investigation now underway involves 21 GM models and more than 2.7 million GM trucks and SUVs.

More fires burning

ConsumerAffairs.com has received two additional reports of GM vehicle fires involving models not included in the federal probe that caught fire while on the highway.

In Janesville, Wisconsin on June 16, a Cadillac SRX inexplicably caught fire.

"I was leaving the grocery store when I smelled smoke in my vehicle, the owner reported. "I opened the rear lift gate and found thick gray smoke pouring from the area behind the windshield wiper," she said.

"I was concerned that the flames might move into the interior of the car. I made the decision to use my large drink to put out the fire before it got any larger. I successfully doused the fire about 30 seconds before the fire department arrived," the owner told us.

Several days earlier, the owner of a 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe from Pico Rivera, California reported her vehicle caught fire while she was driving.

The owner's insurance company declared the Tahoe to be a total loss but "could not determine the cause of fire," she said.

The GM SUVs under investigation are not equipped with the type of cruise control system that causes fires in Ford Motor Company cars and trucks. Ford has recalled more than 11 million vehicles because of fire hazard.

NHTSA investigators are examining the electrical system, engine and engine cooling system; battery cables; under-hood wiring, fuses and circuit breakers in the GM trucks and SUVs.

The GM vehicles under investigation are:

  • Cadillac Escalade ESV and EXT, 2007 and 2008 models
  • Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, 2007 and 2008 models
  • 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche 2500
  • 2007 Chevrolet Silverado
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500, 2500 and 3500, 2007 and 2008 models
  • Chevrolet Surburban 1500 and 2500, 2007 and 2008 models
  • Chevrolet Tahoe, 2007 and 2008 models
  • 2008 GMC Sierra
  • GMC Sierra 1500, 2500 and 3500, 2007 and 2008 models
  • 2007 GMC Sierra Classic
  • 2007 GMC Silverado, GMC Yukon, 2007 and 2008 models
  • GMC Yukon XL 1500, XL 2500, 2007 and 2008 models
  • Hummer H2, 2007 and 2008 models
  • 2008 Hummer H2 Utility
  • Hummer H2, 2006 through 2008 models