Here's What Caused the Float Fire That Disrupted the Rose Parade

Published : Thursday, January 3, 2019 | 5:38 AM

At left, the Chinese American Heritage Foundation’s “Harmony Through Union” float is obscured by smoke from a small fire as it stops near the intersection of Orange Grove Blvd. and Green Street; at upper right, a large tow truck begins its attempt to remove the disabled float, as following parade entries can be seen backing up behind the blockage; at lower right, crews examine the tow truck hitch which failed when the truck pulled the float. Photographs by Bill Glazier courtesy of the SouthPasadenan.com and Patricia Pena.

A transmission fluid leak was responsible for a small fire that caused a 20-minute delay in the 2019 Rose Parade on Tuesday, according to the float maker.

The “Heritage Through Union” float caught fire, spouted a cloud of white smoke and came to a halt shortly before 10 a.m. as it passed Green Street on Orange Grove and was approaching the VIP and television grandstands.

The initial ignition source appears to have been pinpointed, said Tim Estes, president of Irwindale-based Fiesta Floats, which built the train-shaped “Harmony Through Union” float.

“Preliminary information suggests that as the float approached Colorado Boulevard, a small leak created a fine mist of transmission fluid that made contact with a hot exhaust pipe,” he said in a written statement.

“The contact with the pipe created a small flame and a lot more smoke,” Estes said. “The small fire was quickly extinguished and the float was immediately stopped by the driver. Everyone was immediately evacuated for safety. No one was injured.”

The full circumstances of the incident are still being sorted out, and it remains to be seen whether the float maker will be subject to a fine from the Tournament of Roses for causing a delay.

“We will be working with the Tournament to determine and verify the exact cause,” he added. “Our primary concern is always safety and preventing issues like this from happening in the future.”

The delay caused by the fire caused some parade-goers to begin packing up and leaving early, thinking the parade was over as the halted float was cleared from the parade route. The final few entries, including two floats and a band, were cut from some live television broadcasts.

More than pride is at stake. Parade participants can face fines of up to tens of thousands of dollars for causing disruptions, according to the Tournament of Roses.

The parade went off without any other significant issues before Ohio State defeated Washington in the Rose Bowl.

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