Two Orono police squad cars were destroyed by fire early Friday and another was slightly damaged in the department parking lot, and authorities are suspecting arson.

This is the second time in recent months that the department's squad cars have been target by vandals. Late one night in June, obscenities were spray-painted on two squad cars, then large fish were used to try to bash in windows on four police vehicles.

"There was an accelerant found in the area," said Police Chief Correy Farniok, in what he's classifying as "a potential arson."

The cars were found burning by an officer pulling into the lot about 3 a.m. at the end of his shift, Farniok said. Firefighters put out the flames within about 10 minutes, the chief said.

"If it truly was arson, it takes a lot of guts to get inside our lot and do this right next to the police station," the chief said.

The lot is not fenced in, but it is under video surveillance, Farniok said.

The chief estimates that the suspected arson did more than $100,00 in damage.

The department's squad count now is down to eight, but Farniok said he does not believe response time will suffer during the month or two it will take to replace the vehicles.

Star Tribune staff writer Richard Sennott contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482