9 fires in 9 days: Lake County firefighters, deputies stumped by serial arsonist

Video: 9 fires in 9 days: Lake County firefighters, deputies stumped by serial arsonist

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Even a week after firefighters were last called to douse the flames of a suspicious fire in Umatilla, there’s still a feeling of unease in the small town.

“We’re trying to solve this case and it’s a giant puzzle,” said Michael Vitta, from Lake County Fire Rescue.

Between Feb. 17 and Feb. 25, nine homes, cars and businesses were set on fire within just a few miles of each other. In one fire, someone had to escape their home as flames started to spread. Many of the fires happened on the same day, sometimes just minutes apart.

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Investigators haven’t said if the fires are were the work of the same person or even related. Still, detectives said they are treating every fire within the Umatilla area as suspicious.

Investigators have very few clues to work with. Surveillance video from the fire at Old Crow Barbecue shows a grainy image of a possible suspect. There's also video of someone pouring some kind of fluid all over the inside of a Sunoco station.

Something that could crack the case wide open: Information from the public.

“We’re still following up on tips called in by the public,” Vitta said. “No pages are being left unturned.”

Vitta said the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Umatilla Police Department are increasing road patrols to ensure faster response in case of another fire.

Investigators said people with information that leads to an arrest may be eligible for a cash reward. To contact investigators, call the arson tip hotline at 1-877-NO-ARSON (1-877-662-7766)

BELOW: Interactive map showing dates & locations of Umatilla fires since Feb. 17
(Editor's note: Map does not include a Feb. 18 fire at the home of a Lake County sheriff's deputy. WFTV is not including that location to protect the deputy's identity)