HYDE SQ.—JP Auto Body on Rock Hill Road was burned early in the morning of April 29 by an arsonist using flaming automobile tires—the fourth such arson fire in Jamaica Plain this year.
Matt Hayes, owner of the body shop, told the Gazette that eight or nine tires were set against three dif-ferent wooden doors around the outside of the building and then ignited.
“Somebody had a vehicle full of tires, ready to go to town,” Hayes said. “It’s definitely deliberate.”
“It’s depressing. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Hayes said. He said the damage—estimated by the Boston Fire Department (BFD) at $65,000—is not as bad as it looks. The body shop should be open and fully operational again by Monday, he said.
BFD spokesperson Steve MacDonald said the fire—which was called in around 4 a.m.—has been officially ruled an arson. He said that investi-gators know the method, but are not publicly revealing it.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is involved in the investigation, Hayes said. He said it appears that no one witnessed the arsonist in action. The body shop had security cameras, but they were not connected to any recording device, he said.
Hayes said he has no idea why someone would burn his shop, and said there is no evidence it was especially targeted. “You don’t know if it’s a copycat,” he said, referring to media coverage of previous JP arsons involving burning tires.
Officials were already offering a $10,000 reward in those crimes. They include a Jan. 6 hair salon fire at 138A South St.; a Jan. 28 house fire at 111 School St.; and a Feb. 7 house fire at 20-22 ½ Sigourney St.
A security camera captured footage of the arsonist at work at Sigourney Street. The images appeared to show a white or light-skinned His-panic man carrying a tire and other materials.
JP has also suffered from arsons using other methods in recent years—all of them still unsolved. The trend began in 2005 with the fire-bombing of the El Oriental de Cuba restaurant on Paul Gore Street—about a block away from JP Auto Body. Hayes said authorities are hoping that El Oriental’s security cameras may have filmed the body shop arsonist.
JP Auto Body was controversial in recent years among some neighbors for an alleged paint fume problem. After prolonged negotiations and meetings, the issue was settled a year ago as part of Hayes’ plans for a new building on the site. That building is under construction and should be occupied within a few months, Hayes said, adding he hopes that leaves the arson as just “a memory.”
Anyone with information about the arson can contact the Boston Police/Fire Department Arson Squad at 343-3324 or anonymously by calling 1-800-494-8477 or by texting the word “TIP” to 27463.