Sanford residents on edge with arsonist on the loose

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SANFORD, Fla. - Some people living in Sanford say they have been losing sleep since an arsonist started torching homes in their neighborhood.

Nine vacant homes and business in Sanford, including a historical school house, have been damaged or destroyed by suspected arsonists in the past month.

A woman who lives across the street from the Little Red School House is taking matters into her own hands to keep her property safe, by installing flood lights and cameras.

Residents packed City Hall Wednesday night as Sanford leaders warned them about the serial arsonist hitting the historic district.

“I’m sleeping less. I don’t want to lose my home, but I can’t stay up all night either,” said resident Lynette Woodward.

Between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. someone set fire to nine vacant buildings in the last few weeks, including the more than 100-year-old school house.

“It’s a shame because they’re destroying a lot of history in Sanford,” said resident Richard Shaffer.

State and local fire officials, along with police, wouldn’t answer any questions about whether they’re closer to catching the person responsible because it’s an open investigation.

“We’ve had an opportunity to speak with some different individuals here in the community,” said Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith.

With no arrests made, however, residents question if more cameras at the scene would help find the suspect.

“You wonder when you’re standing there, it’s the person standing here with us watching this burn,” Woodward said.

Smith said his officers do have body cameras and cameras in their patrol car that have been used to watch people coming and going on scene.

“Hopefully we can catch that person and put an end to it, and get back to living a good life,” Shaffer said.

Code enforcement plans to release a list of vacant properties that could be a target of the arsonist.

As for the damaged properties, the city’s working on getting them leveled or having the owners repair them, but code enforcement officials said there’s a lot of red tape when dealing with vacant properties.