'It was like a big explosion': 38 vehicles set on fire in Gresham, West Pullman tow yards on South Side: officials

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Firefighters battled massive flames Monday morning after more than 30 cars were set on fire in two separate arsons in Gresham and West Pullman on the city's South and Far South sides.

According to Chicago police and fire officials, around midnight someone entered a fenced in lot in the 300 block of East 115th street and set fire to eight cars.

About 40 minutes later, officials said someone entered a private tow yard in the 8800 block of South Genoa Avenue and set approximately 30 cars on fire. The dozens of burning vehicles were fenced for hours as glass broke and tires popped from the heat.

"It was like a big explosion and you saw a lot of the sparks fly up," said neighbor Jayla Jeffries.

The property is owned by John Michael Johnson.

"Even if it's a prank or a kids thing. This is deliberate because all the cars were on fire," Johnson said. "There were 30 cars back there."

Johnson leases the lot to tow company, Smooth Towing.

The revenue goes to a non-profit organization that raises money to fund student scholarships at Simeon Career Academy.

"So they money that would have been earmarked to go into our scholarship funds or operation has gotta be used to clean up and to take care of the lot," Johnson said.

WATCH: CFD battles massive flames after dozens of vehicles set on fire in South, Far South Sides

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Dozens of cars were lit on fire Monday in two separate arsons in Gresham and West Pullman on the city's South and Far South sides.



Smooth Towing lot manager, Frank Davis, said the company has insurance but they aren't able to notify the owners of those vehicles yet.

"We haven't been able to go in there so we gotta wait til then we'll do all of the notifications and all that," said Davis.

No injuries were reported from either fire, police said and no suspects are in custody.

Officials said it was not immediately clear if the fires were related.

ATF is now investigating the cause of the fires with the help of the Chicago Bomb and Arson Unit.

ATF has not yet commented on the investigation.
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