'Competition is pretty fierce': Police investigating after 3 tow trucks set on fire

Hamilton police are investigating the fires as arson. Meanwhile, the owner of a towing company says he's worried other trucks will get torched.

Towing company owner scared other trucks will get torched because of a turf war

HTowing owner Zachary Bobolo says one of his trucks was among the vehicles torched in Hamilton overnight Tuesday. (Submitted by Zachary Bobolo)

Hamilton police are investigating three suspicious overnight fires targeting tow trucks across the city that one company owner believes could be part of a turf war.

The first fire was sparked around 2:38 a.m. on Cochrane Road, according to Const. Lorraine Edwards.

Police say a second truck was set on fire about half an hour later in the parking lot of the Shoppers Drug Mart on Garth Street. Officers arrived to assist firefighters and found the truck fully engulfed, Edwards explained.

The third truck was burned around 3:30 a.m. on Ferguson Avenue South.

Zachary Bobolo is the owner of HTowing and says the truck that was torched in the Shoppers parking lot was the vehicle he used to build his fleet.

"That was my first truck, that was my baby," he said. "I started this company with that truck and I loved that truck to death."

This is what Bobolo's truck looked like before it was set on fire. (Submitted by Zachary Bobolo)

The two other trucks that were set on fire belonged to other companies. Police say all three vehicles received unrepairable damage.

Bobolo says no one was in the vehicles at the time and he believes whoever started the fires targeted trucks that were easily accessible on the street or public parking lots.

"Being a tow truck driver in the city, I know where everybody lives," he explained. "I think they took out the trucks that are the most available to them."

The owner says his theory is the fires were set by someone trying to take trucks off the road.

"All I can tell ya is that tow truck competition is pretty fierce out here. It's really bad in Toronto … and I believe it's making its way to us in Hamilton now."

Turf war escalating

Mark Graves, president of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario (PTOA), told CBC he's seen turf wars around tow trucks escalating in recent years.

"We've had murders, vehicles burned," he said. "It hasn't escalated outside the industry. But we really want to try to get a handle on this before it does."

The PTOA has been working with different levels of government to set up standards for who can be a driver, he said, adding a lack of regulation can mean a spike in competition when business is slow that sees drivers sometimes coming to blows over who gets a tow.

The trucks set ablaze in Hamilton belong to different companies. Police say all three were damaged beyond repair. (Submitted by Zachary Bobolo)

Turf wars tend to break out in areas where there are more and more people joining the industry, which forces drivers to do what they have to survive, according to Graves.

When asked about the possibility the trucks were burned as part of a turf war, Edwards said police are investigating the fires as arson, but it's early in the process and information is still being reviewed.

"The Hamilton Police Arson Unit will explore all avenues in hopes of locating the person(s) involved," she said.

'A bunch of idiots out there'

Bobolo was sad to see his baby burn, but said he's worried about his other vehicles too as each cost $100,000 or more.

"I'm definitely scared other trucks will get torched because all my other trucks are pretty well brand new," he said, adding even speaking to police could backfire.

"Even if I knew who did it I wouldn't be able to tell anyway because if I did tell guess what would happen, there goes my company. There goes my yard burned down to the ground and the rest of my trucks."

Bobolo said the truck that burned was his "baby." (Submitted by Zachary Bobolo)

Tow truck companies pay high insurance premiums, so Bobolo said he's not even sure if he'll claim the damage to his vehicle as it could make his rates jump even higher.

Despite all he's built, Bobolo said if this type of attack keeps up he might have to leave the business.

"I'd probably almost have to give it up and go into a different career path where there's not a bunch of idiots out [t]here."

with files from Angelina King