LAKELAND (FOX 13) - Florida is a tinderbox right now. It wouldn't take much to start a wildfire, and that has arsonists shifting into high gear.
The state's commissioner of agriculture, Adam Putnam, just issued a written warning. In part, it says, "We will not tolerate anyone who purposely endangers Floridians and our first responders."
It is mind-boggling how many wildfires are set by arsonists in our state. So far this year, it's more than 240. That's a 70-percent increase over the same period last year.
Residents of Indian Lake Estates in southeast Polk County are learning about the dangers of it the hard way. Last week, there were five suspected arson in Indian Lake Estates within 48 hours. The homeowners association is reviewing surveillance video shot at the entrance of the subdivision, but investigators have no suspects yet.
"Whoever did it either has an ax to grind, or they are really sick," said John Ferrara, a resident of the area.
The problem is that wildfire arsonists are very difficult to catch. They do their damage in the middle of nowhere when no one is around, usually without a trace.
"Someone gets off the vehicle with a Bic lighter," said Rickey Britt, spokesman for the Florida Forest Service. "They're not leaving any evidence. That's why it's important if anyone sees any type of suspicious activity. Please report it."
The Florida Arson Hotline number is 1-800-342-5869.