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Race car catches fire, explodes in Beaumont Waffle House parking lot

A Beaumont man says he was ordering food inside of Waffle House when a waitress noticed a fire outside of the restaurant.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Underneath a wall of fire, one man's prized possession slowly melted away.

"The heat pushed me back when it exploded, I've been distraught all day," The owner of the burnt race car, Wendell Melonson said. 

Melonson spent Saturday night racing his 1980 Chevy Monza in Evadale before getting dinner at the Waffle House off College Street in Beaumont.

His Polaris 4-wheeler and race car sat on a trailer connected to his truck in the parking lot when he went inside. 

Then a waitress told Melonson that a motorcycle caught fire.

Initially he didn't think anything of it, but when she insisted he turn around, Melonson realized what was happening.  

"I run out and sure enough, my Polaris is on fire," Melonson said. "So, I ran out and unstrapped it, trying to push it off the trailer."

Melonson told 12News he and another man forced the ATV off, but the fire had already spread to his Chevy Monza. 

Shortly after, an explosion that could be heard for miles brightened the sky.

"I ran and tried to get a coat to put it out, and by the time I had got the coat out, it had spread to my whole fender," Melonson said. "Then, it was too hot for me to get around it, so I had just had to back away and watch it burn."

The Polaris had an electrical short, Beaumont Fire-Rescue spokesperson Scott Wheat said. 

"Basically, it ruptured and made a fireball," Wheat said. 

Firefighters were able to put out the flames before it spread further and luckily no one was hurt. 

Melonson added that his wife, who was home at the time six miles away, heard the explosion just after 11 p.m. Saturday, January 12.  

"I was traumatized because I got a lot of time and money in that car," Melonson said. 

The drag racer said he spent roughly 15 years working on his race car.

With nothing left but a roll cage and a pile of burnt metal, sadness and heartbreak, Melonson said he most likely won't ever race again.

"I can't recover from that, there's no way I can continue to race because I work for a living," Melonson said. "I can't afford to do that again."

The heat also melted the taillights and license plate cover on his truck. 

Now, a man who has spent the last the two decades pursuing a passion is left with just a memory.

"Every time I watch that video of that car exploding, immediately I tear up again," Melonson said.  

Unfortunately, while crews were working on the fire had to help a person who was hit and killed across the street just a few minutes after the fire started. 

RELATED | One dead after attempting to cross College Street, hit by car Saturday night  

But the embers of his race car burst back into flame while first responders were helping the pedestrian who was hit, Melonson said. Firefighters had to turn on the water again and put the fire out a second time. 

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