Vallejo business owner who launched free towing service becomes victim of arsonist

A Vallejo tow operator says he's the victim of arson by someone who wants him out of business.

This past weekend, his storage yard went up in flames, less than two weeks after he launched a free tow service.

"I don't do impound cars, no repossessions, I specialize in junkyard cars and towing for the community," said Clarence Martin, showing the 2011 Ram Super-Duty tow truck he bought last month.

Its body and cab are gutted by flames.

"Now all I have is a 50 thousand dollar paperweight and a pink slip, it's totally worthless," said Martin.

At about 4 am Sunday July 21, someone broke through several wood and chain link fences to get onto his Cypress Avenue property.

They left their bolt-cutters on the ground.

"They cut a hole in the fence right where you are able to see my tow truck," said Martin.

"They didn't touch nothing, they didn't take nothing, they only set the place on fire."

Some vehicles were skipped, others torched.

Martin says the heavy equipment and expensive tow truck were the targets.  

"I've been here 14 years, a self-employed mechanic," he explained, "and as soon as I try to get official and open up a tow company, I'm out of business ten days later."

Martin's idea was to eliminate red tape and high fees while ridding Vallejo streets of abandoned cars.

"There is no rule that says somebody can't give you a car," he notes.

At a car owner's request, he would take title and tow their junker for free.

The he would dismantle and dispose of it, or if he could get it running, sell it to generate income for himself.

"People complain about junk cars in Vallejo every day, a thousand times a day, but I'm a solution-maker," said Martin.

"I found a solution, but evidently someone didn't like what I came up with."

Conventional tow service might cost the owner hundreds of dollars, even thousands when towed cars rack up storage bills.  

"I'm not running a racket, I'm running this for the community, they deserve a tow yard with their best interests at heart."

Now Martin hopes the community will help him by donating to a GoFundMe, raising money to get him back in business, with beefed-up security.

"All I need is enough to get another truck because I'm a hard-working man," said Martin.

"If I get another truck, they won't get to it this time."

Police took a report, and made sure Martin's dog made it home to him.

His German Shepherd Queenie was at the yard during the break-in and fire.

Any suspicion Martin lit this himself- he says- is ridiculous.

Insurance coverage was still pending when it happened.

"For a tow-truck, there is an application process that takes anywhere from 30 to 60 days to approve you for insurance."

Among the losses: a car he was saving to be his son's first.

"This is unfair, this is uncalled for and I have a right to have a legacy for my kids just like the next man," said Martin angrily.

He still believes his "Community Tow" concept is a good one, and wants whoever torched his place to know he won't scare away so easily.

"I'm not folding my tent, I'm going to get a circus big top tent."