Postal employee Brad Yonan was trying to restart his postal vehicle when it caught fire as he delivered mail Tuesday to a home on North Via Avellana, in the Catalina Foothills. Yonan wasn't injured in the blaze, which was put out by Rural/Metro.

Letters, magazines and packages intended to be delivered to some 400 addresses in the Catalina Foothills went up in flames Tuesday morning when a mail delivery truck caught fire along its route.

Crews from Rural/Metro Fire Department responded to a call in the 3800 block of North Via Avellana, near North Swan and East River roads, shortly after 11 a.m. and found the mail truck engulfed in flames, said Capt. Grant Cesarek, a spokesman for the department.

The mail carrier was making deliveries and his truck died and, when he restarted it, he smelled smoke, Cesarek said.

The driver was able to start the truck and move it off the roadway when the smoke started building up and the truck caught fire.

The mail carrier got out of the truck unharmed and crews put out the fire within a few minutes, Cesarek said.

A postal inspector went to the fire scene to secure any mail that was not damaged in the blaze, said Robert Soler a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.

Any mail with a readable address would still be delivered to its intended recipient Monday, but most of the mail was destroyed, Soler said.

"It appears that the mail is a total loss," he said. "The truck is basically melted. The fire was that intense."

When the fire started, the mail carrier was about an hour into his delivery route carrying mail from the Desert Foothills Station at 1700 E. River Road to recipients in neighborhoods east and west of Swan Road and south of River Road, Soler said.

Residents whose mail was ruined by the fire can expect to receive a letter from the postal service in the next day or two notifying them of the damage, Soler said.

The fire was caused by a mechanical failure, Cesarek said.

Soler said mail delivery trucks are routinely serviced and are well maintained and he can't recall an incident like this happening before.

"You almost never see this happen," he said. "It's a very rare thing."

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.