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LA fire captain injured in auto fraud case

October 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two people were arrested for allegedly setting a car on fire to collect insurance. The incident was even more serious because a fire captain was badly injured putting out the flames.

Car fires are an increasing problem for Los Angeles firefighters. They battle an average of eight auto fires a day, and many of them are intentionally set.

Los Angeles fire Capt. Robert Rosario nearly lost his life trying to extinguish flames ravaging a 2000 Chevy Camaro.

"That moment when the car exploded...thank God for shock, because all I remember is throwing my hands up to protect my face," said Rosario.

The explosion left Rosario with multiple skull fractures, a brain bleed and back problems. But he lived to tell about it, making a miraculous recovery in just a few months.

"I knew it would be a challenge for him. But boy, I knew he wasn't going to give up, and I sure as heck wasn't going to give up either," said Rosario's wife, Kathy.

Maria Porras, 35, and Rigoberto Diaz, 37, both from Los Angeles, were arrested for destroying their own car to get insurance money.

An investigation by the Arson/Counter-Terrorism Division and the Calfornia Department of Insurance revealed the fire was intentionally set with flammable fluid.

"I'd ask them, was it worth it? Was it worth...almost taking [somebody's] livelihood away for a lousy $5,000 or whatever they got for that car?" said Rosario.

The crime prompted a new policy within the fire department. Firefighters are now required to have a face piece on and be fully suited up within 30 feet of a car fire.

In August, another firefighter had a similar situation with the exact same car model.

"Because of my incident, that protected that firefighter on the job. Fortunately, it saved his face, because there were metal chips embedded in his face piece," said Rosario.

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