UMATILLA, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - Residents around the Lake County community of Umatilla are on edge, after Lake County Fire Rescue announced they are investigating six fires believed to have been set by an arsonist.
Early Wednesday morning, firefighters responded to a call about a personal vehicle set on fire. One vehicle was destroyed and another was damaged.
“I’m kind of surprised at the brazenness of this person who did that,” said Sgt. Fred Jones.
Jones said the latest fires were set in the driveway of a deputy with Lake County Sheriff's Office. Someone set two of his personal cars on fire as they were parked right next to his marked LCSO cruiser. That deputy called 911 for help just after 5 a.m.
“It’s no doubt, these were intentionally lit. He’s shaken up. This goes beyond vehicles. Those can be replaced by insurance. When you’re talking about your family inside of a house, and that’s what this fire is about, that’s what all these fires around about. This is about human life,” said Jones.
Investigators from several different local agencies and the State Fire Marshal's Office have formed an arson task force, looking into these fires. Sgt. Jones said there have now six fires set since early Saturday morning. The deputy, whose cars were burned, lives in a rural area off the beaten path.
“It appears it is targeted because there was an identifier there in the front yard, a patrol car,” said Jones.
The arson task force is not saying yet if all six incidents are connected, but that is something they’re investigating closely.
“Any time we have something like that that appears possibly serial, you know we take this very seriously,” Sgt. Jones said.
He tells The News Station that LCSO is increasing patrols around the Umatilla area.
“Every resource available at the sheriff’s office is at the disposal of the State Fire Marshall. Without getting into detail, we’re bringing in outside resources. We’re doing everything in our power to get this guy off the street,” Sgt. Jones said.
If you see anything suspicious or hear anything about these crimes call the arson hotline at 1-877-NO ARSON.