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“FIRESTARTER: A local neighborhood deals with a serial arsonist”


Stock photo of arson investigator

“FIRESTARTER: A local neighborhood deals with a serial arsonist”
First Coast News
Story by Matt Head
October 26, 2017
Click HERE to read the full story

At least 25 separate arsons that happened over the past two and a half years in a Northwest Jacksonville neighborhood have sparked a federal investigation and ignited fear among families living in Birdville.

Now, the ATF and state fire investigators are searching for a person(s) who may be responsible for setting the fires; a possible serial arsonist.

“Fires are extremely difficult to understand and investigate,” said state arson investigator Caleb Douglas.
“The recent string of intentionally set fires that we have seen in the Birdville area of Jacksonville pose a serious threat and are a detriment to the surrounding community,” said CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis in a statement to First Coast News. “It only takes one fire to get out of control for lives to be lost, families to be destroyed and property forever lost. It is my hope that members of the community will join our efforts by reporting any past or future suspicious activities and realize, before it’s too late, the very serious threat that these types of activities pose.”

Not only is the town close knit in nature, but it is close quarters in terms of size.
"A geographical area like Birdville is not secluded from the rest of the world," Douglas said. "It is only a matter of time. If this was one person or a group of people involved in these fires, trying to figure out how a fire started is like tracking a wounded animal through the woods. You have to know what to look for."

As the hours and days go by and no suspect publicly identified, a new fear grows. Johns has prayed the person(s) responsible for starting at least 25 fires in Birdville is caught.
Neighbors like the Johns and Birdville’s other families go back, in some cases, generations. This fact serves as an extra motivation for investigators.

Investigators are asking members of the community to call if they think they have information related to these fires.
They are encouraged to contact the Arson Tip Hotline at 1-877-NO-ARSON (1-877-662-7766) or (888) ATF-FIRE  (888-283-3473).
Callers can choose to remain anonymous. Any information leading to a successful arrest and prosecution may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $5,000 from the Florida Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention, and even an additional $5,000 from the ATF.
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