Rash of car fires sparks major probe

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A police helicopter flew over Oslo during the night after eight more cars burst into flames around the city’s east side. Car fires, which also have blazed in Swedish cities, have spread to Norway and may be tied to earlier bursts of vandalism and violence against emergency crews.

The Oslo Police District has launched the state’s helicopters to aid in the investigation into a rash of recent car fires in the capital. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet/Peder Torp Mathisen

“We are putting a lot of resources into this investigation,” Rune Ullsand, operations leader for the Oslo Police District, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) early Wednesday morning. “We’re using both the police helicopters over the city and patrol cars. We have technical probes underway at the scenes (of the fires) and we’re going door-to-door (questioning local residents who may have tips).”

The first calls reporting the fires in Oslo’s east-side Tøyen district came in to police at 2:48am on Wednesday. Police believe a fire started in one car parked on Herslebs gate, located in one of Oslo’s oldest neighbourhoods and filled with buildings from the 1800s. The fire then spread to other parked cars, with a total of six destroyed or badly damaged.

Firefighters arrived on the scene quickly and had the fires under control within 15 minutes of the first call coming in. They told NRK there was no danger of the fires spreading to adjacent buildings, several of which are of brick construction. Police asked neighbours awakened by the disturbance to remain indoors and close their windows, many of which were open on a warm summer night in Oslo.

Police and firefighters had earlier responded during the night to calls that two additional cars were on fire on Micheletveien in Oslo’s Furuset district, farther to the northeast. There were three more car fires, also in eastside neighbourhoods at Mortensrud and Høybråten, during the night between Monday and Tuesday. That brings the car-fire total up to 11 in the past two days.

“We’re investigating whether there’s a connection between all the car fires in the city recently,” Ullsand told NRK. One witness reported seeing a white car, possibly a BMW, driving away at high speed from the scene of the fire at Furuset earlier Tuesday night. Both of the burned cars were towed to a police garage for examination by technical experts.

Several fires set in the Furuset, Stovner, Vestli and Bjørndalen areas of Oslo were also reported in Oslo in early June, following a period of unusual violence directed at the firefighters who responded and at security guards and police who were pelted with rocks.

Police couldn’t yet confirm that Tuesday night’s fires were deliberately set but they suspect arson.  No injuries have been reported and police also continue to investigate patterns and possible motives.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund