Vehicle Arsons Increasing In Montgomery County | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Vehicle Arsons Increasing In Montgomery County

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Fire authorities in Montgomery County are warning of an increase in vehicle arsons, like this one, in the county.
Matt Bush
Fire authorities in Montgomery County are warning of an increase in vehicle arsons, like this one, in the county.

By Matt Bush

Vehicle arsons are on the rise in Montgomery County, and the economy is being blamed. Battalion Chief Michael Hamilton of the county fire marshal's office says the increase is very specific, later model cars that have not been paid off.

"One of our observations is if there's still a lien on the car, and the lien is worth more than the car is in trade-in value, then that can be an incentive, I guess, for someone to get the insurance pay off on it," he says.

Newer cars also pose a greater risk to firefighters when they burn according to Hamilton.

"One of the things with newer cars is there's more plastics involved, so they burn hotter. Sometimes the fuel tanks, that used to be made of steel, are now made of plastic. So they fail more quickly."

County Fire Chief Richard Bowers calls burning cars "time bombs," and not just because of the gas tank.

"Gas shock absorbers that hold the bumper on: when they're heated up by the vehicle being on fire, they can actually release," he says. "And some bumpers have been known to go as far as 20 feet at a great rate of speed, and really can to a degree decapitate somebody. Or take a leg or hurt them very seriously."

Bowers says burning vehicles are also difficult to clean up, and become great hazards to the environment.

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