Chain-Dragging Semi Sparks Brush Fire Incinerating $2.1 Million in Cars at CarMax

A simple spark ended up consuming 86 cars along the Bakersfield highway.

byJonathon Klein|
Chain-Dragging Semi Sparks Brush Fire Incinerating $2.1 Million in Cars at CarMax


Earlier today, a semi was reportedly traveling along the Golden State Highway in Bakersfield, California and sparked a brush fire. The flames, spurned on by California’s seasonal switch from rain and flora growth to the rainless heat of summer, quickly spread from the median along the side of the highway to an adjoining lot owned by the used car conglomerate, CarMax. That’s when things went from normal to apocalyptic.

The fire, which eyewitnesses say was sparked by the semi dragging a steel chain, spread to the lot rapidly engulfing a number of CarMax’s fleet. The Bakersfield Fire Department was on the scene soon after, however, the fire had spread so swiftly that the firemen could do little to put out the majority of cars on fire. The CarMax retail store was evacuated as the billowing smoke wafted through the lot and store. 

Once the fire was finally doused, CarMax employees were able to inspect the damage and what they witnessed wasn’t great. While initial reports stated that only a small handful of cars were damaged or destroyed, upon further inspection, CarMax lost a total of 86 vehicles. 26 cars burned to the ground. Though the other 60 cars weren’t fully consumed, they were write-offs in terms of their fixability. CarMax stated that the loss is likely to exceed $2.1 million, though an official number hasn’t been released. 

As for the semi that apparently ignited the blaze, the California Highway Patrol had nothing to report, nor was the organization actively looking for the driver as eyewitness accounts have not been able to be corroborated. In a statement to Bakersfield’s local ABC News outlet, CarMax said, “At CarMax, the safety of our associates and customers is our top priority. We have evacuated and closed our Bakersfield store for their safety. We’re grateful for local emergency teams who have responded to this event. We continue to assess the damage.” Thankfully, no one was reported injured. 

From pictures of the fire’s aftermath, a number of car and truck makes and models standout, including a Kia Stinger, Toyota Sienna, Infiniti QX80, a number of Chevrolet Suburbans, and others. Based on social media posts, including some videos taken from when the fire was far from doused, the smoke could be seen for miles, as could the flames.