Two Palm Bay Florida police cars uh exploded...
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Two Palm Bay police cars exploded and burst into flames with officers inside. The department has pulled squad cars off the street before another one ignites.

A total of seven cars in the department are affected. Twice in the past week, Palm Bay police officers have had to act as their own firefighters after the fuel systems on their cruisers exploded. While only seven have been affected, thousands of the same Impalas are used as police cars statewide.

"The flames were just coming up, just as we were hearing the big bang," said Officer Tina Hensel.

Hensel said she never expected her police cruiser's engine would become a flame thrower of sorts earlier this week.

"It was being fueled by fire, so the flames were distinctly red. You could tell there was an accelerant," she said.

At the Palm Bay maintenance shop, it wasn't the first time it's happened. In fact, it was the second time in a week a cruiser's engine has essentially exploded into flames. Both times, police officers became firefighters. Fortunately, each cruiser is equipped with a fire extinguisher.

"The danger factor is that the fuel regulator is defective, dumping too much fuel into the combustion chamber. If there's too much spark, then the fuel line blows off, further fueling the fire," explained city fleet manager John Cady.

Both fires happened as shifts began. That was fortunate because the incidents could have easily occurred while officers were responding to emergency calls.

Two of the cruisers have already been repaired. The problem was a tiny pressure valve that General Motors knows about and they paid for repairs. The part has been recalled and there are thousands of consumer versions of the same engine still on the street.

The pressure valve is in some cars that have a 3.8-liter V-6 engine. That includes the 1998-2000 Buick Park Avenue and Lesabre and Pontiac Bonnevilles, the 1998-1999 Oldsmobile 88 and the 2000 Chevy Monte Carlo and Impala. The cars are not involved in a recall, but are part of a bulletin. Call your dealer if you own one of the cars.

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