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Haines City Fla--10 Fires in 5 hours--ARSON

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  • captstanm1
    3 More Fires

    3 More Fires Part of String of Arsons

    By Amber Smith
    The Ledger
    [email protected]

    HAINES CITY -- State Fire Marshal investigators have discovered that three more houses were hit during a string of arsons late Friday night and early Saturday morning in the northeast section of Haines City.

    Investigators first thought that 12 fires were set, but three more were discovered by homeowners earlier this week, bringing the total to one car fire and 14 house fires.

    The three arson attacks discovered Tuesday and Wednesday were at 1104 Ave. I, 2000 Baker Ave. and 304 N. 14th St.

    "One woman said she thought she heard something outside her house" early Saturday morning, said Mike Douglas, a detective with the State Fire Marshal's Office in Tampa.

    But, he said, the noise scared her enough that she didn't "check it out so she didn't notice the damage until the next day.

    "Fortunately, the fire didn't get going and put itself out and there was no serious damage done," Douglas said.

    "We have had three houses now where the fires went out on their own and there was very little damage," he said.

    The series of fires began with a car fire at 412 N. 22nd St. that was set about 11:50 p.m. Friday.

    After that, 14 house fires were set, with the last one being started about 5:30 a.m. Saturday.

    "There were a couple of gaps in the times when the calls were received that we thought the person might have been taking a break," Douglas said. "It could be that was when these other additional fires were set; they just didn't get started and weren't discovered until later."

    Douglas said investigators are following up leads on suspects, including one that came in late Wednesday afternoon.

    A resident near the house fire set at 2000 Baker Ave. reported seeing someone running from the area early Saturday morning.

    "They are trying to get hold of that witness now and hopefully we will get a description," Douglas said.

    He said investigators questioned a homeless man arrested on burglary charges who lives near the area where the house fires were set, but didn't label him a suspect. Arthur Downing, 23, is being held at the Polk County Jail.

    "He is someone of interest, but we are talking to other people as well," Douglas said. "Nobody has been arrested. We are getting tips from people that we are looking into."

    Douglas said investigators think the Haines City arsonist is a man and that he was working alone.

    "Historically, serial arsonists are men. We believe he was working alone because two people running around an area would have been more noticeable," he said.

    Douglas said the Haines City fires are not connected to the rash of 12 house fires that have been set in North Lakeland over the past couple of years.

    "There is definitely no connection," he said. "The way the fires were set are different."

    Investigators are not releasing any information on how the fires were set.

    "We don't want to encourage any copycat fires by releasing how these fires were set," he said.

    "Also, when we are questioning a suspect, there are things that only the person who set them, and we, will know," Douglas said. "Once someone has been arrested, we will be able to release more information."

    Douglas said investigators are estimating the damages in the 15 fires at about $55,000. No one was injured and none of the houses were destroyed.

    The fires were set at:

    412 N. 22nd St. vehicle fire. First fire reported.

    1301 Ave. K. Occupied.

    1302 Ave. K. Occupied.

    1003 Ave. C. Unoccupied.

    704 N. 20th St. Occupied.

    427 N. 20th St. Occupied.

    2001 Mango St. Occupied.

    610 N. Eighth St. Unoccupied.

    30 Cedar St. Unoccupied.

    219 North Blvd. Unoccupied.

    117 N. Ninth St. Unoccupied.

    612 Bartley St. Occupied.

    1104 Ave. I. Occupied.

    2000 Baker Ave. Occupied.

    304 N. 14th St. Unoccupied.

    Douglas said investigators are looking for any connection to the houses because all were within a half-mile area.

    "It's curious why some houses were picked and others weren't," he said. Some were occupied and others were vacant.

    "We are looking to see if some of the properties are maybe owned by one person or if all the people have something in common," Douglas said.

    Anyone with information on the fires can call Fire Marshal Investigator Kevin Shireman at 863-519-1080, Ext. 1087.

    There is a $2,500 reward offered for each fire for information that leads to an arrest.

    Amber Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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  • captstanm1
    A Suspsect

    Police to question burglary suspect in HC fires
    [email protected]

    HAINES CITY -- State fire investigators plan to question a 23-year-old drifter apprehended on burglary warrants at the end of an arson spree resulting in 10 fires overnight Friday and Saturday.

    Arthur Downing was arrested on several outstanding warrants late Saturday morning by Haines City police behind Haines City Citrus Growers Association. Downing, who police say has no permanent address, remained in Polk County Jail in lieu of $161,000 bond or cash bail.

    Downing faces two counts of felony burglary of an occupied dwelling and one count each of grand larceny, domestic battery, assault and resisting arrest without violence. Investigators received a tip on Downing's location. A news release accusing Downing of twice trying to break in into a neighbor's residence was published Friday morning.

    One of the warrants belongs to Haines City police. The other warrant was requested by Polk County sheriff's deputies. Police had sought Downing since last Thursday.

    State fire marshal's spokesman Detective Mike Douglas confirmed that the agency wanted to question Downing, but declined to call him a suspect in the rash of fires that local police strongly believe is arson. The investigation is continuing.

    Ten fires broke out in Haines City between 11:50 p.m. Friday and 9:54 a.m. Saturday; but no fires of a suspicious nature were reported since the arrest, Douglas confirmed.

    The suspected arson spree required Haines City to call in its off-duty firefighters and mutual aid from Davenport and Polk County Fire Service. No injuries were reported.

    Plotted on a map, the fires generally move from north to south crisscrossing the CSX rail line with no obvious pattern. Haines City firefighters believe only one of the fires was accidental. The remainder appear to have been set, Fire Capt. Mark Baker said. Both the new-found fires smothered on their own, Baker said.

    Fire investigators have collected substantial bits of evidence from the fires, Douglas said. The agency has put a rush on the analysis and an arrest could be made this week, he said Sunday. All the suspected arson fires share a common method of origin that fire marshals are withholding pending completion of the investigation, he said.

    The fires generally occurred in vacant, derelict structures and a vehicle, but at least one residence was occupied. At least two residences were destroyed with a third suffering moderate damage. The loss is expected to reach near $100,000 when all the damage is tallied this week.

    The first call was a vehicle fire about 11:50 p.m. at 22nd Street and East Johnson Avenue. The second fire, 20 minutes later, was across the railroad tracks at Avenue C and North 10th Street in Oakland nearly 20 blocks away. Police believed that would require the arsonist to possess a vehicle. A third fire on Eighth Street was reported an hour later two blocks away, while a fourth occurred an hour after that nearly a dozen blocks south.

    Remaining fires occurred on the east side of the railroad tracks on Ninth Street, 12th Street, Cedar Street, Mango Avenue, North 20th Street and 19th Street.

    Information on the fires can be phoned in to Haines City police at 421-3636 or Polk County Crimestoppers at 1 (800) 226-8477.

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  • captstanm1
    Solo Arsonist Sought In Saturday's 10 Fires
    By JILL KING GREENWOOD [email protected]
    Published: Oct 5, 2003

    HAINES CITY - Annie Manuel awoke to a series of loud popping noises early Saturday and looked out a bedroom window to discover the house next door was on fire.
    Manuel called 911, and firefighters arrived minutes later. It didn't take long for them to knock down the blaze at the small, single-story, wood- frame home at 1003 Avenue C.

    But minutes after extinguishing that fire, firefighters were off to fight another.

    And another.

    Nine homes and one vehicle were set on fire during a five- hour period early Saturday - all in a one-mile radius of one another and all the work of the same person, investigators said.

    No one had been arrested by Saturday night, and investigators had no suspects, said Detective Mike Douglas of the state fire marshal's office, which is investigating the blazes.

    ``We think one person did this and they are most likely from this area and live locally, because most of the homes that were set on fire were vacant and they were all close to each other,'' Douglas said. ``This is definitely a serial arsonist, and this guy knew what he was doing.''

    No one was injured, Douglas said.

    The homes are along eight streets near one another, and all are close to the Haines City Fire Department.

    Most of the homes are small, wood-frame houses that were in poor condition before the blazes were set, Douglas said.

    The damage estimate for all nine houses and the one vehicle is about $50,000, he said.

    A small, green-and-black, wood-frame vacant home at 30 Cedar Ave. was set ablaze about 2 a.m. and was heavily damaged.

    Part of the roof caved in, and shingles and pieces of siding were scattered along the side and back of the house Saturday afternoon.

    Douglas said several homeowners in the area woke up Saturday morning and saw evidence of smoke or fire damage to small portions of the outside of their homes, meaning the arsonist most likely tried to set those homes on fire but was unsuccessful.

    Christopher David Rodriquez was home about midnight Saturday when his mother smelled smoke and found that the front porch was burning.

    Someone across the street grabbed a hose and put the fire out, which caused minimal damage to the porch of Rodriquez's home at 704 N. 20th St.

    Douglas said several residents reported hearing noises outside their homes, but few looked for a cause.

    He said investigators wanted residents to be on alert for the next several nights and to report any suspicious people or noises.

    ``Chances are this guy will try this again,'' Douglas said. ``Serial arsonists rarely stop on their own.''

    Manuel, who watched the home next to hers burn to the ground, said she was eager for an arrest to be made in the case.

    ``It's very scary to think that this person is out here trying to burn people's homes down while they sleep,'' she said. ``I'm very worried.''

    Anyone with information on the fires is asked to call (863) 419-3257 or (863) 421-3636.

    WFLA, News Channel 8, reporter Peter Bernard contributed to this report. Reporter Jill King Greenwood can be reached at (813) 657-4534.

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  • captstanm1
    started a topic Haines City Fla--10 Fires in 5 hours--ARSON

    Haines City Fla--10 Fires in 5 hours--ARSON

    Arson suspected in 10 Haines City fires set Saturday

    Associated Press, October 04, 2003 - 11:36 PM

    Fire investigators believe an arsonist set 10 fires, all in the same neighborhood and during a five-hour span Saturday.

    Nine homes and one vehicle were set on fire, and investigators think it's all the work of the same person.

    "Most of the homes that were set on fire were vacant and they were all close to each other," Detective Mike Douglas of the state fire marshal's office told The Tampa Tribune for its Sunday editions. "This is definitely a serial arsonist and this guy knew what he was doing."

    No one was injured in the fires, which caused an estimated total of $50,000 in damage, Douglas said. Most of the homes are small, wood-frame houses that were in poor condition before the blazes were set, he added.

    "Chances are this guy will try this again," Douglas said. "Serial arsonists rarely stop on their own."

    Annie Manuel said the home next to hers was ravaged by one of the fires. Her home, though, was not damaged.

    "It's very scary to think that this person is out here trying to burn people's homes down while they sleep," she said.

    Haines City is about 51 miles east of Tampa.


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