Investigators think fire that burned 20 cars at Salt Lake City International Airport rental car lot may be arson

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SALT LAKE CITY – Firefighters are investigating an overnight fire in a rental car lot at Salt Lake City International Airport as arson.

It happened around 12:30 a.m. in a small auto lot Hertz uses to maintain its vehicles.

It's a big loss for Hertz.  20 rental cars were damaged or destroyed in the early Sunday morning fire.

“From the time we were dispatched to the time that we got there, was right around 3 1/2 to 4 minutes, and in that time it had probably grown to double the size,” Captain Kyle Lavender with Salt Lake City Fire Department Station No. 11 said.

“These are cars that are parked bumper to bumper and with the winds we had last night and the heat the cars were giving off it was spreading quickly,” Lavender said.

In a matter of minutes two dozen firefighters were in action, 20 to 30 minutes later it was over.

“Now we’ve got a bunch of cars that have seen their heydays and are done,” Lavender said about the melted metal, bubbled plastic and glass,  and dripping lights. “The extremes and everything in between.”

The fire is also a mystery.

“It is suspicious, these are newer vehicles," Lavender said.  "These are vehicles that are not even a year old so not a lot of reasons mechanically that this should happen."

“We're investigating it as though it may be an arson,” he added.

Even though this was an unusual circumstance, Lavender hopes others can learn a lesson.

“These hot nights with the winds blowing down canyon, it just shows you how quickly fire can get pushed from object to object -- how dangerous it can be."

“You may not have done anything wrong, but it could happen next door to you and endanger your property,” he added.

Sunday morning's fire was a costly one.

“We’re talking $20 to $30 thousand a car, and with about 20 cars total involved, that adds up pretty quickly,” Lavender said.

In all, the fire caused more than $500 thousand worth of damage.

Investigators are in the process of reviewing surveillance footage and interviewing those who may have been around, to see if they saw anything suspicious.

 

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