Propane-powered patrol car combusts

A Jackson County, GA, sheriff's deputy was earlier this week when his propane-powered patrol car erupted into flames.

The fire destroyed the car, but the deputy who was driving it at the time escaped with minor injuries, officials said. The interior of the car caught fire as the deputy lit a cigarette.

An investigation has been launched to determine if the fire was caused by a propane leak.

Meanwhile, the sheriff's office has suspended the use of propane to power its fleet of patrol cars until engineers from the company that sold the propane conversion kits can inspect the car and find out what happened.

Jackson County's 63 patrol cars can run on either propane or gasoline.

The sheriff’s office has not had any problems like this in the two years since it began converting its fleet of patrol cars to run on propane gas as a measure to reduce fuel costs.

The conversion was financed with money confiscated in drug busts.

When converting a police car, contractors install a bullet-resistant propane tank in the trunk, then connect it to a component that uses heat from the car's engine to vaporize the liquid propane and inject the gaseous fuel into the engine cylinders.

The cars can run on either propane or gasoline, at the flick of a switch.

The Internal Revenue Service refunds the sheriff's office 50 cents for each gallon of propane it buys as part of an excise tax refund meant to promote alternative fuels.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office now saves about $150,000 annually on fuel.