PORTLAND, Ore. — A thief trying to siphon gas from a U-Haul van on Monday morning caught himself and the van on fire, Portland Fire & Rescue officials said.
Firefighters were called out to Southeast 2nd Avenue and Belmont Street at about 7 a.m. Monday, where they found a U-Haul van fully engulfed in flames.
Investigators looked at surveillance video and determined a man tried to siphon gas from the truck and caught himself and the van on fire. Witnesses report they saw someone running from the scene with their pants on fire.
“I was freaked out, I was like, ‘oh my God, this guy's running down the street on fire, this is absolutely insane!’” said U-Haul area field manager Bill Stone.
“[Siphoning gas] is a very dangerous thing to do,” said Portland Fire Lt. Rich Chatman.
Chatman said arson investigators were still looking into what exactly ignited the fire, be it a cigarette or something else.
“When you use a rubber tube with gasoline … it creates static electricity,” Chatman said. “That static electricity is an ignition source for those gas fumes that occur when you're moving the gas from one tank to another."
Stone said gas theft isn’t just a problem among rental companies, but also personal vehicles city-wide. He said it's even worse when crooks do more damage like drill holes into gas tanks.
“You're dealing with thousands of dollars in repairs, downed equipment, customers that are displaced, and for what?” said Stone. “Because some guy wanted a few extra gallons of gas.”
The suspect hasn't been caught. If anyone has information about this incident, please call 503-823-INFO.