Suspicious PoCo car fires likely started by botched catalytic converter theft: police

Investigators believe that a fire that destroyed two cars in Port Coquitlam overnight may have been caused by a botched attempt to steal a catalytic converter.

Coquitlam RCMP said the theory is supported by witness accounts and video evidence, though cautioned it was still early in the investigation.

Police are now looking for four male suspects and an dark, older model sedan. One of the suspects is described as a tall, lanky man with a grey hoodie, who was wearing a headlamp.

The blaze happened near Riverside Drive and Riverside Gate, where neighbours told Global News they awoke around 3:30 a.m. to find the two vehicles engulfed in flames.

Some residents told Global News they heard loud popping noises and that they feared an explosion, as there was a strong smell of gasoline in the air.

“I woke up to a bang. I came out, looked out the window — the whole side was on fire so I called 911 and just continued to watch. The first car was on fire, and before the fire trucks were here, the second vehicle caught on fire,” neighbour Cathie Cox recalled.

“My husband had to move his car, which was across from it — you could feel the heat through the window.”

A torched vehicle is towed away from the scene of an overnight car fire in Port Coquitlam.

Neighbour Jennifer Strain said she woke up to the smell of smoke, which she initially thought was coming from inside her own house.

“I could smell wire or rubber or metal or something,” she said.

“It’s concerning; it’s a couple hundred feet from my house. Little Port Coquitlam isn’t so safe anymore, is it? It’s too close for comfort.”

Another neighbour said they thought they heard a vehicle speeding away from the scene.

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Fire crews were on the scene overnight extinguishing the flames, and the vehicles were towed away from the scene on Thursday morning.

Police said it’s too early to say if the file is related to any other catalytic converter thefts.

The incident is the latest in a string of suspicious vehicle fires around the Lower Mainland.

In May, a minivan was set on fire outside a home in Abbotsford, while four vehicles were damaged in a suspicious fire in Chilliwack earlier this month.

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