Serial arsonist sets 7 fires in 3 weeks in Hillsborough Co.

- Local and state fire investigators are trying to stop a serial arsonist before they strike again.

In less than a month, seven homes have been targeted in Hillsborough County. Detectives believe they're connected.

The most recent fire happened early Sunday morning in the Paradise Village Mobile Home Park in Mango. In minutes, flames tore through a vacant home at 9405 Tiffany Terrace.

"All of a sudden, I heard this big whoosh, a noise, and I opened my front door and this whole place was on fire at that time," said neighbor Breck Bowdish. "It felt almost like 200 degrees out here. That's how hot it was. It was really hot. They must have dumped a bunch of gasoline on this."

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue investigators soon realized it was arson, the seventh home to be targeted since November 13. Fires have been set from Clair-Mel, to Mango, to Plant City.

"We believe there is information that people have seen or heard people talking about setting these fires in the area," said David Tucker, Lead fire investigator with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

All but one of the homes were vacant. Investigators are anxious to make an arrest before someone gets hurt.

"This is a very critical matter and we are throwing every resource we have at it to try to make the fires stop. That is everybody's goal," Tucker said.

It's not just destruction being left behind. Some homes were also spray painted with anti-Trump and Black Lives Matter messages.

A Navy veteran and his family, Trump supporters, lost almost everything when their Plant City home on Johnson Road was targeted last Tuesday.

"It's not what I expected out of America," said Matthew Smith. "It should be us figuring problems out together."

People living in these neighborhoods are scared.

"I feel it's hard to sleep at night and you never know," said Jennifer Hawker. "These are trailers, these aren't homes so they go up in seconds."

They hope whoever's idea of fun this is, realizes that the next fire could end up killing an innocent person.

"As a matter of fact, right now, my wife sleeps at night and I sleep during the day because I stay up basically all night keeping an eye out," Bowdish said. "Yeah, we are. We're scared."

While detectives don't have a clear description of the arsonist or arsonists, they think they might be driving an older Toyota or Nissan with shiny rims and a rear spoiler with a loud exhaust.

Anyone with any information reference the suspect or fires is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200. Anyone with any information regarding the identity and whereabouts of this suspect and who wants to be eligible for up to a $3,000 dollar cash reward is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477) or report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com

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