During a recent walk with my neighbor, Ann Elkington, she suddenly started shouting and waving at a driver who was about to park on Albemarle Street. For a moment I wondered if she had totally lost it. Then she explained that the driver was about to park atop a leaf pile. And that can be trouble.
“The catalytic converter on the underside of the car gets very hot,” Ann told me. “When this is in direct contact with a big deep pile of leaves, the leaves may ignite, especially if they are dry. Graphically, what happens is that the car then becomes a small bomb.”
She witnessed such an incident a few years ago. And to add insult to injury, Ann said, “The insurance company wouldn’t cover all of the damage because the driver had parked on leaves in an area posted as a temporary ‘No Parking’ zone.”
Upon further searching online, I found this 2005 Washington Post story, “Think of Leaf Piles as No-Parking Zones, Official Say,” and this TV news story: Leaves Catch Fire and Burn SUV.
So, don’t park on top of any leaf pile, dry or damp. If that is your only choice, keep a rake or broom in the car to sweep the spot clean. And if the leaves are from your property, consider piling them in the tree box area between the sidewalk and the street. Though with the wind we have been experiencing lately, the leaves might end up in the street anyway.
The District’s leaf collectors are scheduled to make their next passes around the neighborhood between December 12-16 or December 27-31, depending on your location. You can also bag the leaves, preferably in paper bags, and put out on garbage collection times. Here’s what the District does with the leaves after they’re picked up.