University of Memphis police cordoned off Echles Street Feb. 11 when a parked SUV parallel to the U of M recreation center caught fire.
Firefighters responded to the scene at about 10:15 a.m and were able to extinguish the flame, which originated at the hood of the silver Honda CRV. No one was injured, and the fire did not cause damage to the nearby vehicles.
“No one was around it, so it wasn’t like anybody could’ve just set it on fire,” Tillman said. “Plus, it looked like the car had been parked for a while. I’ve never seen anything like that – a car just randomly going up in flames.”
Police reopened Echles about 15 minutes after the firefighters’ response.
An hour after the fire had been put out, the car was parked in the same spot, only with small cones surrounding it. The fire severely burned the hood of the vehicle -- eroding the clear coat of paint -- and melted the rubber of the front two tires.
While the owner of the vehicle could not be located for the purposes of this story, director of police services Bruce Harber, when reached by phone Monday afternoon, said the owner told police nothing seemed wrong with the car that morning.
“Our officers on the scene were told that nothing seemed unusual,” Harber said.
Harber said the U of M would not be launching any further investigation into the matter, as a mechanical defect in the vehicle seems to be the most probable culprit of the fire as opposed to a possible case of arson.
By late afternoon, the car had been towed.
Tillman said he was just glad the police and firefighters responded as quickly as they did.
“Nobody got hurt, so that’s the most important thing,” Tillman said. "You can always replace a car, but you can't replace a life."