The Long Beach Fire Department Captain David Rosa Regional Training Center hosted a seminar Thursday morning focused on car thefts and vehicle fires as the auto industry prepares for what could be an increase in vehicle arsons due to an economic downturn, organizers said.

The event was put on by Fire Cause Analysis, a firm that teaches forensics and fire science, and Western States Auto Theft Investigators, a nonprofit focused on reducing vehicle thefts. About two hundred investigators, insurance company reps, law enforcement and fire personnel attended the meeting to network and learn about vehicle arson.

Rich Knapp, a lawyer for WSATI Southern California, explained that given the trend of the economy and the high price of fuel there is an expectation that people will begin to not keep up with their car payments or want to keep gas-guzzling SUVs.

Thursday’s event was meant show how fires spread through a car when it’s purposefully set ablaze and how they look and behave differently than accidental fires that might result from mechanical defects.

The event was capped by a “carbeque” where LBFD personnel used road flares and a flame thrower to set two cars on fire.

While the LBFD does its own arson and fire investigation training, LBFD Captain Jack Crabtree said that the department used the event as a networking opportunity to meet other people who work on cases involving stolen vehicles and those that are burned out.

Crabtree said the demonstrations also help their personnel see how car fires behave and how to safely approach them.

To get involved visit the Western States Auto Theft Investigators website, here, or Fire Cause Analysis here.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.