Car set on fire to fight fraud - FOX 13 News

Car set on fire to fight fraud

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

Experts say Florida leads the nation in staged auto accidents, and investigators are working to stay on top of one particularly dangerous form of insurance fraud: arson.

Monday, firefighters and investigator set a car on fire, on purpose, to study how to spot claims that could be arson.

The training drill took place at the St. Petersburg Fire Department Training Facility.

Crews set a small blaze in that engulfed the car in less than two minutes. (Watch video in the player above.)

"It's a training tool so we can train fire investigators, both police fire and private, on exactly how a fire starts and how it travels throughout the car, and whether it was set deliberately or not," Lt. Joel Granata, spokesman for St. Petersburg Fire Rescue.

Experts in the insurance industry say the number of car arsons has remained stable overall, but they see more of them when fuel prices rise.

"When we saw the price of fuel go up significantly, it seemed like there was a lot of larger vehicles that were not as fuel economic that tended to catch on fire. The economy definitely has a source into this," said Ray Gomes, a special investigations unit manager for Mercury Insurance.

Firefighters say deliberately set fires are frustrating.

"We're trying to save lives from the fires that start by accidents, and now we're over here trying to fight a fire someone intentionally set," Granata said.

The Insurance Information Institute estimates that auto insurance fraud will cost Floridians up to $1 billion in 2012.

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