A vintage red-and-white Plymouth Fury with Maine license plates is responsible, authorities say, for setting fire to the Sierra National Forest near Yosemite National Park.
The vehicle, which has been traced to Arnold “Arnie” Cunningham, was damaged in the California conflagration, which began on the evening of July 13 along Highway 140 and burned more than 96,000 acres before it was fully contained on Aug. 22.
Two firefighters were killed battling the blaze, and 19 people were injured. Ten buildings were also destroyed. The park was closed for almost three weeks, at one of the year's busiest times, causing several millions of dollars in lost revenue for the federal government.
Although the Fury was badly mangled, eyewitnesses say, the vehicle, which Cunningham nicknamed “Christine,” shows no damage. In fact, Forest Service spokesperson Smokey Bear says “the car looks brand new, as if it just rolled off the assembly line, back in 1958.”
Cunningham originally restored the car when he was in high school, and he is “quite attached to her,” he admits, having chosen Christine over his one-time high school sweetheart Leigh Cabot, who, he says, “had the best 'headlights' of any chick except Christine and a rear end to match.”
Investigators suspect the car's “low tailpipe” may have made contact with the “dry, roadside vegetation” in the area, thus igniting the fire. Arson is suspected, and Christine is “a vehicle of interest,” police say.
Authorities are seeking the public's assistance in apprehending the firebug, but they caution people “not to approach her,” as the vehicle is reportedly “a sociopath capable of committing the worst atrocities” and should be considered “extremely dangerous.”
If convicted of the charges against her, Christine could face execution at the hands—or jaws—of a car crusher.
But Cunningham isn't worried. “Christine can't be killed,” he says. “She'll return, no matter what, good as new and madder than hell.”