"We feel someone is responsible for us losing three cars," Police Lt.
Robert Giles said.
The latest fire occurred Wednesday morning at the intersection of Lake
Street and Olive Avenue when veteran Officer Fernando Rojas noticed smoke
coming from the trunk of his car.
Rojas tried to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher, but flares
are difficult to snuff out, Giles said. Rojas was treated for minor smoke
inhalation and returned to work that day, Giles said.
The car, a new Ford Crown Victoria, was totaled. Including the
equipment inside, the patrol car cost about $30,000, Asst. Police Chief
Robert Heins said. A box of flares costs $35.
Officials would not release the name of the flare manufacturer because
of the pending suit, but said the Alhambra Police Department uses the
same brand and has also had problems.
Alhambra Police Lt. Robert Smith said the department uses two kinds of
flares. The brand they believe caused fires in two of their patrol cars
is made in China.
"The safety caps aren't secure, (they) always fall off," Smith said.
Alhambra has no conclusive proof that the flares are flawed, but he
said there haven't been any problems since they were removed from the
The first fire in a Burbank patrol car occurred in February 1999 in the
department's underground garage. The other fire occurred in January when
an officer was driving through the city. Neither officer was injured, but
both cars were extensively damaged.
The average motorist does not need to be concerned about car fires
caused by flares, said a spokeswoman from the American Automobile Assn.
of Southern California.
"This is the first I've heard of it," said the association's Marie