TAMPA (FOX 13) - Tampa firefighters say a street in the Carver City and Lincoln Gardens neighborhood has become a hotspot.
Three fires in the past six nights have broken out at homes on Palmetto Street and fire investigators don't believe they are accidental.
Both Tampa Fire Rescue and the Tampa Police Department say these fires are the work of an arsonist and they're just as baffled as the people who live in the neighborhood. Most of the residents are retired and many are veterans.
Eugene gimlet has lived on Palmetto Street in Tampa for nearly half a century. He says the suspected arsons started with a car fire in his front yard. The next night, it was the house a few doors down and then, early Friday morning, a fire broke out just across the street.
“It's been so peaceful over the years and it's hard to say. It's random because of the way it happened,” Gimlet told FOX 13 News.
Fire Investigation Supervisor Mike Zurla agrees.
“It’s never normal to have this many fires in one area, so it concerns us,” he said.
Firefighters were able to quickly contain the most recent blaze, set on the front porch of an abandoned home, but early Monday morning - a few doors down - an 86-year-old woman was forced from her home in the middle of the night when a fire took her house over.
It was later confirmed to be the work of an arsonist.
“It's so sad. It's a tragedy to live with someone and know them for so long and for them to experience something like this, you know? It's totally new to us,” Gimlet said.
The neighborhood is primarily home to elderly retirees and their caretakers. One resident who asked to remain anonymous said the tight-knit community will come together in spite of what’s happening.
“We've got to protect our elderly and I’m going to do all I can to protect our elderly. So we're going to be alright. We're going to come together on this thing and fight this,” she said. “I’m not scared, I’m mad. Real mad.”
Tampa police are increasing patrols at night and neighbors say they're looking out for each other.
“There are a lot of people who have weapons out here, so I wouldn't want to see anything bad happen, but whatever's going on needs to stop,” Carver City Lincoln Park Civic Association member Maurice Harvey said.
Tampa Fire Rescue officials have posted signs around the neighborhood asking anyone with information or who may have seen something in the area to give them a call. They're also reviewing footage from nearby security cameras to try to catch the arsonist or arsonists before anyone is seriously hurt.
Anyone with information about these possible arsons may also contact the Fire Marshal's Office at 813-274-7000 or use the anonymous tips page at www.tampagov.net/arsontips. Rewards of up to $2,500 or more are available for information leading to the identification of persons involved in arson fires.