When Rogel Morejon-Soto’s van burst into flames earlier this year while parked in his West Kendall apartment complex’s lot, the fire was so intense it took multiple specialized units — including a foam truck from the airport — to put out the blaze.
Investigators say they determined what likely caused the blaze — the van had been rigged to haul two 264 gallon tanks to store gas.
On Wednesday, Morejon-Soto, 35, was charged with arson and illegally having the tanks in his van.
“Investigators then were able to determine that the vehicle was illegally fitted with two 264 gallons steel caged plastic totes in the cargo hold,” police said in a news release. “The vehicle was also equipped with the necessary fuel hoses, fuel nozzles and electric pumps used to transport and dispense voluminous amounts of fuel.”
Detectives say the only reason for this type of system “is solely for the purpose of facilitating the theft, transport and sale of stolen fuel.”
According to Morejon-Soto’s arrest report, the white Ford Econoline van was parked at the Sunset Villa Apartments, 15351 SW 73rd Terrace Circle, at about 12:45 p.m. Jan. 24, when the fire ignited.
Emergency crews responded after receiving an anonymous call about the fire. The initial crew requested help but the fire “burned uncontrollably for several hours,” an officer wrote in Morejon-Soto’s report.
Several different units responded including the foam truck from Miami International Airport. Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection were also called to assess the damage.
“In the opinion of the environmental consultants from the emergency response team, in the likely event that the drainage pipes were compromised, the affected surface of the parking lot needed to be lifted and all of the contaminated soil be removed,” the officer wrote in the report. “It should also be mentioned that this incident gravely endangered the lives of the civilians and emergency responders alike.”
While investigator Lt. Mike Adams could not determine an exact cause of the fire “due to the extensive amount of damage,” the officer said, “in his opinion some of the illegally stored gasoline in the back of the van, came into contact with a source of ignition (a hot surface or an electrical event) causing the fire.”
Morejon-Soto was being held Wednesday night in Miami-Dade’s Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on a $12,500 bond.