A car was totaled after it caught fire Wednesday night in the parking lot behind Tucker Hall.
Nearby students from Tucker Hall and the General Education Complex gathered from a distance to see the hood of a red 1999 Dodge Stratus engulfed in flames.
The car, which belonged to Shaheed Grant, had a temporary paper tag indicating it had been purchased recently.
Members of the FAMU Police Department and Tallahassee Fire Department arrived on the scene in a matter of minutes. As police officers controlled the crowd, fire fighters doused the flames in under a minute.
“We received the call at 8 o’clock,” said Michael Robinson, battalion captain of Fire Station 3. “We got here eight minutes later [and] we put it out in less than a minute.”
At the time of the accident, Robinson did not know the cause of the fire. But he had his suspicions. He doubted the fire was a result of arson and believed it may have been something mechanical.
“Right now, it’s still under investigation,” said Robinson, who roughly estimated the cost of damages to range from $12,000 to $15,000.
“You can’t rule out foul play.”
Only a few students saw the fire start.
Derek Durant, 24, a junior health science student from Pensacola,was near the car as it sparked and later ignited.
“I saw it when it was sparking,” Durant said.
“I was afraid it would blow up, so I stayed back.”
The officers at the scene did not confirm whether the car had a security or alarm system. Durant said one of the two could have caused the fire.
Durant, who frequently works on automobiles, said the wires of the systems that go under the hood sometimes catch fire.
Although Robinson did not know if any type of system was in the car, he said a certified technician should add all equipment added to a car.
“It’s like if you had open-heart surgery,” Robinson said. “You wouldn’t go to the shade tree (to get it done). Make sure you got somebody that’s certified or trained to work on your car.”
According to Robinson, car fires are not common at FAMU.
However, they are not new to Tallahassee.
“I’ve been doing this for 22 years and this is not uncommon,” Robinson said.
Fire fighter Ruben Rodriguez said his shift alone gets one call a week to put out car fires. Rodriguez also said accidental fires can be prevented if owners would take better care of their cars.
“It could be smaller things,” Rodriguez said. “If you see a leak [or] smell gas, have it checked.”
Grant declined to be interviewed.
Contact Brandon D. Oliver at email@example.com.