Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Public's help sought in identifying person responsible for more than 30 small fires in Gulfport

GULFPORT — A series of more than 30 small fires that have started throughout Gulfport over the last five years were intentionally set by the same person, police said Wednesday.

Now, authorities are asking the public to help them identify the person responsible for setting the fires, which have caused thousands of dollars in damage.

A total of 31 fires have been linked to the arsonist, police said, including 10 that have been set this year. Many have been set in alleyways, destroying trees, brush and refuse.

"Most of it is just small criminal mischief-type stuff to brush, palm trees, fences and things like that," said Gulfport police Sgt. Thomas Woodman.

Thus far, no one has been injured in any of the fires, police said. And most have not caused significant destruction to property.

But, Woodman said, a blaze that destroyed a telephone pole on Nov. 26 caused an estimated $20,000 in damage.

Police declined to say exactly where each of the fires have been set, citing the ongoing investigation. The pattern investigators identified shows them occurring in the same general area, Woodman said. Investigators also linked each blaze by identifying similar characteristics such as the time of day each happened and the manner in which each was set.

On Wednesday, Pinellas County Crime Stoppers issued a plea for tips to identify the arsonist.

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