Springfield sees increase in car fires, unclear if connected

Springfield firefighters have seen a recent uptick in car fires across the city but it’s unknown if they’re connected.

In a 10-day period earlier this month, seven car fires were reported to the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division, Asst. Fire Chief Brian Miller said. At least two of the fires are related, he said, because they happened at the same property. But the rest are under investigation.

“Speculatively, I can say that a lot of times the reason people set fires is for revenge,” Miller said.

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Car fires in October have been reported all over the city, including on South Linden Street, and North Bechtle and Linden avenues.

The city had several car fires in September, too, with a total of 13 that month. That’s almost double the eight vehicle fires that happened in August. Just one car fire was reported in July.

“Accidental vehicle fires are fairly unusual,” Miller said.

With the materials cars are made of — plastic and fabric — he said it’s not difficult to start a vehicle fire. But they’re not often started by an engine problem or a wire shortage, he said.

“More often it is an intentionally set fire,” Miller said.

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The string of fires comes as a surprise to Mike Robbins, president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations in Springfield.

“We need to put the word out … to have everybody look out for suspicious activity,” Robbins said.

It can be difficult to find out who started a car fire when it’s intentional, Miller said.

“Frequently it takes somebody seeing something and coming forward,” he said. “I believe people see things quite often. The coming forward part is difficult. They just are not interested in helping investigators bring people to justice.”

He said people should think about how they would feel if they’re car were to be set on fire.

“They’re serious crimes,” he said. “In fact they frequently cause thousands of dollars in damage.”

Anyone with information about a car fire can call the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division at 937-324-7615. Anonymous tips about arson also can be submitted online at https://form.jotform.com/60136605485152.

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