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JOHNSTON, Iowa — A Clive couple bailed from their pickup after it caught fire in the middle of the road.

Daniel Knippel says he and his wife were driving on Northwest Beaver Drive in Johnston Friday night. At first, the light in the rear-view mirror looked like a police officer trying to stop them. Then they realized what was happening.

“She just slammed it in park and we’re like oh crap, it’s fire,” Knippel said.

They called 9-1-1 and watched as flames began shooting out of the gas tank of the ’99 Dodge Ram pickup that Knippel had just bought in February. Before firefighters could douse the flames, the truck started rolling down the street.

“I believe the parking brake melted, which pretty much caused the truck to put itself in neutral and it just started,” Knippel said.

The burning truck eventually came to a stop in the ditch in front of Bill Haller’s house.

“We’ve had a lot of cars in the ditch over the years, but never one quite like this,” he said.

Neighbors and other drivers stopped and stayed clear of the fireball.

“We kept hearing pops, explosions. Not the kind you see on television or in movies, but the firemen got back a couple different times,” Haller said.

The damage to his yard was minimal, but the same can’t be said about Knippel’s truck. It’s destroyed inside and out.

He says his best guess is that the fuel line malfunctioned and started the fire.