Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Arsonists set three houses on fire in Tampa

TAMPA — Three fires ripped through vacant houses across the city Tuesday, leaving thousands of dollars in damage and new arson investigations.

Larry Cutler, 53, said he was on the couch when a neighbor came banging on his door to tell him the house behind his was on fire.

"I'm really getting scared," the disabled man said. "The smoke was so thick. I came outside and started spraying my house and my trees with the hose until I couldn't anymore."

Less than 15 feet stood between the burning home and the back of Cutler's house.

Cutler and other neighbors said this is the third time the house at 1704 E 19th Ave. has caught fire in the past seven months. Tampa Fire Rescue reported the single-story, 1930s wood-frame home was the victim of arson — for the third time.

Firefighters got the call at 5:35 p.m. When they arrived, the home — still boarded up from the earlier fires — was 75 percent involved, Fire Rescue officials said. The home, which records show was valued for taxes at $28,000, was vacant.

The flames left enough blackened debris inside the home for firefighters to shovel through. No windows remained from the past fires and no repairs had been made, said Lt. Danielle Spradlin, a Fire Rescue spokeswoman.

"Whoever it is, is an amateur," Cutler said. "The first two times they didn't burn it down."

Authorities have been watching the house from time to time because of the earlier arson, said a neighbor, Ernest Williams, 67.

Investigators have linked more than 20 fires in about a year in and around the V.M. Ybor neighborhood. The two earlier fires at the home — on Oct. 31 and Dec. 8 — were among them.

Spradlin said there is a $7,000 reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest and conviction in the string of arson.

Tuesday's first fire also occurred near the V.M. Ybor neighborhood.

Tampa Fire Rescue responded to the first fire, at 2406 E 20th Ave., around 2 a.m., finding flames coming from the vacant single-story house.

The blaze, which did not spread from the house, caused around $40,000 in damage. No injuries were reported.

However, investigators said they don't believe Tuesday's fire is related to that string of blazes.

Sam Venzeio, a state fire marshal Tampa division spokesman, said he could not reveal how officials reached that conclusion.

Firefighters responded to the second fire around 3:45 a.m. at 414 E. Hamilton Ave. The blaze, extinguished in about 20 minutes, caused about $80,000 in damage. No injuries were reported.

Those fires happened 5 miles apart. Investigators have not determined if they were related. Both were ruled arson.

Times staff writers Katie Sanders, Danny Valentine and Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report.

Arsonists set three houses on fire in Tampa 06/08/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 12:25am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. JFK's last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht


    It has been 100 years since John F. Kennedy's birth on May 29, 1917, at his parents' home in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston. Over the course of his life, Kennedy enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, the most famous being a Democratic fundraising bash at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, when a sequined …

    President John F. Kennedy aboard the Sequoia in 1963 opening birthday presents. [Robert Knudsen | John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum]
  2. 1 in 4 Florida adults aren't registered to vote, according to non-partisan group


    TALLAHASSEE — Five million people in Florida who are eligible to vote aren't registered, according to a nationwide non-partisan group that helps improve the accuracy of state voter rolls.

    Voters line up in front of the Coliseum Ballroom in St. Petersburg on Nov. 8. A non-partisan group estimates that more than a quarter of Florida's adult-age population isn't registered to vote. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win


    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

    Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays celebrates as teammate Michael Martinez slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Minnesota Twins during the 14th inning.
  4. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River


    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  5. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move


    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]