The smell of burning rubber lingered in the air for hours in an Upper Marlboro park Wednesday afternoon after a fire set to a stolen SUV destroyed 9 vehicles owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
Someone parked the stolen car in a parking lot at Watkins Regional Park and set it on fire around 5 a.m. Wednesday, News4's Megan McGrath reported.
"There was a vehicle parked next to the commission vehicles that was stolen from D.C... [I]t was set on fire or either caught on fire, and as a result, there was a chain reaction that caught the other vehicles on fire," said Captain Stanley Johnson with the Maryland National Capital Park Police.
The flames jumped from one vehicle to the next, stretching across the grass, sparing only one vehicle parked in the line of cars, vans and buses. Nine vehicles owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission were destroyed.
No one was injured and the damage to the cars is estimated at more than $100,000.
Surveillance cameras on a nearby office building may help police fill in the blanks.
Watkins Regional Park is large park that's home to an antique carousel, miniature golf area and nature center. The scene of the fire is a parking lot reserved for park and planning commission vehicles.
Ralph Howell, who visits the park often, said, "I've been coming out for over 30 years, never had a problem."
The park service is anxious to find whoever is responsible for causing so much damage.
"It's a devastating loss to the park and planning commission; 10 vehicles and a few of them were rather new. We're hoping that someone will hear something and can maybe help us find a suspect," Johnson said.
The vehicles were used to take senior citizens and children to Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission programs throughout the county. The park service is self-insured, so it will have to pay for the vehicles that were damaged.
Police say the owner of the stolen SUV didn't even know the car was missing.
A suspect description is not available at this time.