2 Oakland police vehicles catch fire during weekend pursuits

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Oakland police are investigating why two standard police vehicles suddenly burst into flames in crashes over the weekend.

Oakland police are investigating why two standard police vehicles suddenly burst into flames in crashes over the weekend, a police spokeswoman said Monday.

The two fires after pursuits were the second and third time that 2014 Ford police Interceptor SUVs used by the Oakland Police Department have caught fire.

The vehicles are used by law enforcement agencies across the country and the department has 156 of the 2014 and 2015 models in its fleet, police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson said.

In the first of two pursuits, an Oakland police officer was chasing a suspect in an earlier carjacking on Interstate Highway 580 at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday when he swerved to avoid another car, rolled the SUV and crashed, Watson said.

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The SUV almost immediately caught fire. The officer escaped and was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. The suspect was later arrested in San Leandro.

Then on Sunday, two Oakland police officers chased a Hyundai Elantra fleeing a robbery near the corner of High Street and MacArthur Boulevard at 3:23 p.m., Watson said.

Two police cars crashed near the corner of Carrington Street and 38th Avenue and one of the SUVs again burst into flames. Both officers were taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

The suspect crashed into parked cars a few blocks away and was arrested, Watson said.

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Oakland police have asked for the help of the California Highway Patrol in investigating why the SUVs caught fire and are reaching out to other law enforcement agencies to determine if any others have had problems with the commonly used police vehicles.

Shortly after Oakland police acquired the SUVs in 2014, another officer had mechanical problems while en route to a call and parked the car. Once he got out of the car, it caught fire.

But since then, Oakland police have had no problems with the cars catching fire, Watson said.

"This is a serious concern for our officers and anyone who drives the police Interceptors," Watson said.

As of May, Oakland police officers had been involved in 16 pursuits so far this year, according to a department report. None of those pursuits resulted in injuries and seven resulted in property damage.

The SUVs are used by more than half of the country's law enforcement agencies. They are enhanced to fit the needs of police departments, including having special brakes, a pursuit mode for aggressive driving and they have a J-turn option, meaning they can drive in reverse and spin 180 degree and continue driving.

Ford did not respond to ABC7's News requests for a statement. But three years ago, the company recalled a large number of its 2013 model cars including the police Interceptor because of a fire risk related to the fuel system.

For more stories related to the Oakland Police Department, click here.

Bay City News contributed to this report.
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