Owner: Arsonist destroyed classic cars at warehouse - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Owner: Arsonist destroyed classic cars at warehouse

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NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Authorities said a suspicious fire has caused an estimated $200,000 in damages at a South Florida warehouse that stored classic and antique cars.

The vehicles have appeared in the cable TV show called "South Beach Classics," on the Velocity network, featuring owner Ted Vernon. The cars have been used in commercials and films. Vernon has been selling cars for 30 years. His wife joined him 15 years ago.

The fire broke out at about 4 a.m. Thursday at Ted Vernon Specialty Autos warehouse that stored the cars, located along Northwest Seventh Avenue and 83rd Street. Investigators said several dozen classic cars were either destroyed by fire or sustained major smoke damage.

"Firefighters arrived and found significant fire showing from the rear of the property," said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Ray Jadallah.

The co-owner is certain that someone set the fire on purpose. "It's arson," said Robin Vernon. "I've been complaining to the Miami-Dade Police Department about someone that threatened to burn down our places."

Vernon had also reported threats to "blow up" the business. Police have not named a suspect but are investigating the incident as arson. "Just seeing the building and the destruction of the building and the signs you put up, it's hurtful," she said.

Robin said she has an idea who might have done it. "A disgruntled employee that we simply fired after we found out that he provided false identification," she said.

Vernon also said the couple's fame from their business may also have played a factor in the fire. "Jealousy, resentment maybe, has a lot to do with it," she said.

Fire rescuers were able to contain the flames to one section of the warehouse and were able to save about $2 million worth of property and inventory. But, firefighters said, some cars from the 40s and 50s were lost. "We're looking at well over a dozen, and we're looking at classic vehicles," said Jadallah. "A lot of damage sustained by fire and smoke, including the property."

Robin said she would do whatever it takes to protect her business and family. "I'm armed at all times, and I'm not afraid to use it."

In an attempt to assist the police, Robin is offering a $25,000 reward for any information that leads to a conviction.

Arson investigators have been on the scene all morning and spoke to the owners. Firefighters agree that the fire appears to be suspicious in nature and are trying to determine how it was started. Call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS if you have an information on this fire. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for the reward.


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