TAMPA — It was the second fire in a week and the third fire in less than a month. All arson.
On Wednesday night, Jennifer Baston and her 8-year-old son headed back from the pool to her two-bedroom unit at Waterman's Crossing apartments, 4515 N Rome Ave. On the way, there were police cars and fire trucks. Again.
This time someone poured a flammable liquid through a mail slot in the leasing office, causing $1,000 in damage, according to a Tampa fire marshal's investigator. Tampa Fire Rescue arrived shortly after 11 p.m., but a security guard had already put out the fire with a hand-held extinguisher. No one was injured or evacuated, said Capt. Bill Wade.
On Thursday afternoon, yellow police tape and cars bordered buildings near a gated entrance. Fire alarms sounded on and off around the 403 units.
Shantell Norwood's family is ready to move out.
The fires are creeping closer to the building she, her mother and five siblings have lived in since 2005. Their lease is up next week.
At Waterman's Crossing, Norwood doesn't feel safe.
A phone call from her cousin, not an alarm, alerted her to Monday's fire. Management says it's working on it. Security guards patrolling the 36-year-old complex don't comfort her.
"Ha, that's rent-a-cop," she said.
Phone calls to the manager of the complex were not returned.
City code enforcement inspectors cited Waterman's Crossing management for 101 violations between 2004 and 2008.
Wade said those have been fixed, and he isn't aware of ongoing complaints against management. Investigators haven't found evidence connecting the three arson incidents, but that is being considered, he said.
Tampa police can't be there all the time and need residents to call in suspicious activity, said spokeswoman Andrea Davis.
Estimated losses total more than $500,000 for the fire Monday morning that started in an empty unit and displaced more than 50 residents.
Ileana Morales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403.