Nova Scotia

Woman urges caution after rats' nest causes truck to go up in flames

Two members of Tammy Martin's family have had rats make nests in their vehicles. One nest was discovered just a few days ago. The other one, last March, caused her truck to catch fire.

'We can pretty much count on every week getting … three four or five calls' says pest control specialist

Fire destroyed Tammy Martin's truck after a rats' nest she didn't know was there ignited under the hood. (Submitted by Tammy Martin)

Earlier this year, Tammy Martin and her partner were awoken in the middle of the night by police knocking on their door. Their truck was in flames. 

"Having the police knock on your bedroom window in the middle of the night was bad enough," Martin, who lives in New Waterford and is the MLA for Cape Breton Centre, told CBC's Maritime Noon.

"Of course we thought … something terrible had happened.

"Thankfully nobody was hurt, it was just a truck. But yeah, so the truck just burst into flames after sitting idle for a few hours."

The cause of the fire last March?

A rats' nest under the hood, ignited by the heat of the engine. 

Richard MacDonald, who owns a pest control company in Cape Breton, said not a week goes by that he doesn't get calls about pesky critters building nests in — and causing damage to — vehicles. 

"We can pretty much count on every week getting … three four or five calls," he said.  

"A lot of the times it's the wiring that's been chewed. Most of the time it's rats that are into getting into vehicles causing the problem but it could be squirrels and mice as well."

Still, when Martin's daughter, Baillie Poirier, saw some straw sticking out from under her car's hood a few days ago, she was not prepared for what she saw. 

"It was enormous," Martin said. 

Martin's daughter, Baillie Poirier, was shocked to find this huge rats' nest under her car's hood just five months after her mother's truck burst into flames after a rat made a nest inside. (Submitted by Baillie Porier)

What her daughter found was a giant rats' nest. 

"There was grass and and clippings and wood chips and just any debris that you can imagine that would be wherever they would find it in yards or wherever," she said. 

"They even started to chew the blanket that covers the inside of the hood."

Neither of the vehicles that had the nests were idle for long. Both were driven regularly. 

"They don't sit idle for any length of time. Only overnight," said Martin.

"I didn't even know that this is a possibility to be quite honest. I had no idea."

Martin said the insurance adjuster who investigated the truck fire told her rodents and pests in cars is becoming more common. 

"He said, actually, one person went off the road because the rat snuck out from under the seats while the person was driving," she said. 

When Martin asked the insurance adjuster what could be done to prevent rodents from using vehicles as a free Airbnb, she was told to make sure to keep cars clear of debris such as take-out boxes and any other food items.

"That's an attraction. And once they get in that they will start their nest," said Martin.

With files from Maritime Noon

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