Serial arsonist could be behind Orlando, Sanford fires



CENTRAL FLORIDA - Orlando fire officials said they believe 12 fires in the city are connected, and they're working with investigators in Sanford to see if the arsons in that city are the work of the same person.

A home in Thornton Park that sits behind Howard Middle School was set ablaze over the weekend.

Until recently, Gwen Thomas managed the trust for the historic home that burned down over the weekend.

"It just went out of our trust two months ago," said Thomas. "Somebody bought it and to see it burned down after taking care of it for 10 years is something else. I think it's a tragedy."

It was one of five house fires that were reported in the Thornton Park and Colonialtown neighborhoods over the weekend.

That makes a total of 12 suspicious fires in Orlando that officials believe are the work of a serial arsonist because the methods of operation were alike: the homes were vacant and in historic neighborhoods.

In Sanford, there have been nine homes hit in the historic downtown neighborhood.

"Our arson bomb squad, which is a section within the Orlando Fire Department, is actively investigating this in connection with the Orlando Police Department and the State Fire Marshal's Office," said District Chief Matthew Negedly.

Between Sanford and Orlando, the total number of fires is 21, officials said.

No one has been hurt in any of the fires, but many neighbors believe it's just a matter of time.

"I've been with the city of Orlando 15 years and this is the most concentrated number of arson fires that I've seen," said Negedly.

Multiple agencies are comparing cases to see if they're connected. The Sanford fires are being handled by the state Fire Marshal's Office and the fire department's bomb-arson squad is handling the Orlando cases.

"In any type of intelligence sharing, more is better, so different resources, different avenues, we put it all on the table and we're scouring it," said Negedly.

In Sanford, there are 57 vacant properties in the downtown area, according to the city.

There are nearly 130 foreclosures alone in the downtown Orlando and Colonialtown neighborhoods.