WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — As winter settles in across North Carolina, the changing scenery brings about an unexpected threat: dry leaves.

Fire crews in Winston-Salem are sounding the alarm following a recent vehicle fire on Oaklawn Avenue.

Responding swiftly to a vehicle on fire in the 700 block of Oaklawn Avenue, the Winston-Salem Fire Department discovered an unsuspected culprit: a pile of leaves.

Neighbors like Brad King expressed disbelief at the revelation that a seemingly harmless pile of leaves was the cause of the damage.

“This is shocking. Totally unexpected to see something like that in this neighborhood,” King said. “Sad, obviously for the owners … a surreal sight.”

Fire officials are stressing the potential danger associated with the common sight of leaf piles during this time of the year.

“As you’re sitting on leaves, your exhaust system is extremely hot, enough to ignite the leaves which then ignited the car,” said Battalion Chief Jason O’Ferrell.

“I had no idea what was going on. I was just terrified that someone was hurt,” said Kelly Simpson, a resident near the incident.

The vehicle that caught fire belonged to a contractor working on Simpson’s home.

“He was really grateful that he wasn’t in it. Nothing was really hurt. He was able to remove what was important from his car before it totally burned out,” Simpson said.

As a mother of teenagers about to hit the road, Simpson hopes this incident serves as a crucial lesson.

“This is something that I will be teaching them,” she said.

The WSFD advises residents against raking leaves into roadways. Instead, leaves should be placed on the curb of properties. Residents are urged not to park on piles of dry leaves to prevent potential hazards as winter progresses.