Serial arsonist suspected of setting 17 fires around Lakeland

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Investigators in Lakeland are trying to figure out who is setting fires around the city.

Over a three-day span, someone started more than a dozen fires. Two of them were set in Dobbins Park over the weekend.

One of the fires melted a giant hole in a playground slide. The other fire was set in the trashcan of a park bathroom.

Lakeland police say they are now investigating 17 intentionally set fires in the Dixieland area. Many of the fires were started in alleyways in the early morning hours.

Resident James Singer didn’t know his property had been hit until he took out the trash.

“We went out to the back and there was just this big charred puddle of, like, black and blue plastic on the ground,” Singer said.

In some cases, the flames spread to fences and then nearby trees.

“I hope this is not going to be an ongoing, like, long term trend because we’ve worked really hard to build up the neighborhood,” Singer told FOX 13 News.

According to investigators, the first fires were set on June 12. Seven trashcans and recycling bins were torched that day.

Then, this past weekend, things escalated. Six more rubbish containers were ignited Friday, along with five lawn chairs in the bed of a pickup truck, and a construction dumpster set on fire.

The next morning, two fires were discovered in Dobbins Park.

 “The sad thing is that I don’t think they realize the long-term ramifications of this. Yeah, you can be burning a trashcan, but that trashcan could set on fire a fence, it could spread to a house, you could burn down a whole block. I don’t think they realize how dangerous arson is,” Singer said.

The fire starter could face criminal mischief and arson charges. Anyone who has information about any of the fires is asked to call the Lakeland Police Department.