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Suspicious Van Fire Prompts Criminal Investigation In Northeast Philadelphia

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By Elizabeth Hur

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Flames consume a van and investigators turn their focus onto what was inside.

The incident happened in the southbound lanes of the Roosevelt Boulevard near Strahle Street in Philadelphia’s Rhawnhurst neighborhood.

Firefighters arrived to find a van engulfed in flames. The bomb squad, Hazmat crews along with arson investigators were called to the scene.

We now learn the van is at the center of a criminal investigation.

Police initially told Eyewitness News, among the charred remains, they discovered a 300-gallon tank in the rear of the van with about 100 gallons of flammable liquid still inside. The liquid officials say turned out to be gasoline and according to sources, investigators found more evidence consistent with supplies and equipment used to steal gasoline.

Chief Inspector Scott Small said, “There was no license plate on the rear of the van so we were unable to run the tag to determine the ownership of the vehicle.”

The van may have been missing a license plate, but sources say it had a false floor and a pump machine.

While it is early, sources tell Eyewitness News, it is possible the van was used to secretly siphon gas from gas station storage tanks. When the van caught fire Wednesday night, whoever was behind the wheel fled the scene.

Considering the size and location of the car fire, police say they are lucky no one was hurt.

Small explained, “Not only did the trees catch on fire near the van. There’s an assisted living facility within feet of where this vehicle was fully engulfed.”

In addition to the ongoing criminal investigation, fire officials say their probe into the exact cause of the fire is continuing.

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