Investigation underway into multiple suspicious fires in Tampa neighborhood

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa fire officials are investigating multiple arson cases that may be connected.

Investigators responded to three fires in the same neighborhood over a six-day period, all of which were believed to be set on purpose.

On June 17, someone set fire to a 2002 Dodge Neon, located at 903 W Palmetto Street, causing damage estimated at half of the car’s value.

Nearly 48 hours later, firefighters responded to a residence three doors down at 3909 W. Palmetto Street after a futon-style bed outside of the home caught fire. The flames spread into the home’s eaves and attic space, causing an estimated $40,000 worth of damage. An 86-year-old woman was inside the home at the time and managed to escape without injuries.

Investigators detected a pattern of suspicious activity in the area and asked Tampa police to increase its presence in the neighborhood.

Then, on Friday morning at 2:11 am, firefighters responded to a structure fire on an adjacent street, located at 2309 N Harold Avenue. They say an unknown individual set fire to a trash can on the front porch of a home, causing a minor fire and heat and smoke damage. Nobody was in the home and the suspect was able to flee undetected, according to investigators.

“What we’ve seen here is a rash of these crimes. Three of them in a period of six days,” said Jason Penny, with Tampa Fire Rescue. “We see a pattern. I mean any time you have this many incidents in a short amount of time in a specific geographic area, we believe that this is not coincidental.”

Residents are wondering why someone would do something like this.

“Why would you do that?” asked Albert Miller. “What got you in that frame of mind of thinking to do something so destructive like this?”

Reginald Bolton of Lincoln Gardens Civic Association Inc. says the community is tight-knit.

“This is one of those neighborhoods that you probably could still leave your door open,” he said.  “Everyone knows one another. Everyone was basically born and raised in this neighborhood.”

Detectives say there is no evidence linking the three incidents, but investigators do not believe this is a coincidence. They’re asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect(s) in connection to these arson cases.

Anyone with information regarding the fires has been asked to contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at (813) 274-7000 or use the anonymous tips page at http://www.tampagov.net/arsontips. If you see a person committing arson call 911 immediately. You may be eligible for an award of up to $2,5000 for information leading to a suspect’s arrest.

Follow Chip Osowski on Facebook

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