• Investigators still searching for St. Augustine arson suspect

    By: Lorena Inclán


    ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Investigators have confirmed all four Monday morning fires are connected. The search is still on for whoever is behind it. The first house fire sprang up just before 3:30 a.m. Monday and the last one was spotted around 6 a.m.

    Several agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the St. Augustine Fire Department, the state fire marshal and the St. Augustine Police Department, gathered Tuesday morning to go over a plan of action. Investigators say the meeting focused on coming up with a plan of action.  

    St. Augustine fire marshal Bob Growick said whoever is behind the fires is still on the loose.

    “We can state three of the fires were deemed as arson they were all set the same way in hidden areas where they can’t be found,” Growick said.

    General contractor John Valdes said it’s likely whoever targeted the homes knew exactly what to do.

    “They only chose buildings with crawl spaces, which means they could easily build the fire underneath them and start them combusting,” Valdes said.

    Police are still looking for a person of interest, a man who was in the area when the fires started.

    Growick said the goal is to stop the arsonist from burning another home.

    “It always offends me when someone comes around. My job is fire safety, keeping people safe and when somebody goes against what I preach to what I enforce, yes it is,” Growick said.

    Valdes said the homes targeted are made of yellow pine, which burns very easily. It's yet another vulnerability of the 100-year-old homes. He said this home can probably be rebuilt to look like it used to, but it will never be the same.

    Investigators say they don't have any suspects so far, but are interested in talking with the man seen in the surveillance video in the hopes he may have some information that could help police.

    The fire on Park Place is the only one that has not definitely been ruled as arson, but investigators confirmed what everyone suspected: the fire is linked to three others.

    The people who live next door to what is now a pile of debris on Park Place got back from out of town Tuesday to find their home suffered some damage.

    They didn't want to speak on camera but the homeowner told Action News they don't have insurance.

    Arson signs are now posted all over downtown. Neighbors want this arsonist caught before another house goes up in flames.

     The fires have been the topic of conversation among neighbors in Lincolnville where the worst damage is and throughout downtown St. Augustine.

    Dillon Besley woke up Monday morning to find fire just feet from his house.

    “As soon as I opened the door and you can feel the heat and you can see how bad it was,” Besley said.

    Right now, authorities are combing over surveillance video and talking to neighbors, but the arsonist is still out there.

    Tony Smith, who owns a barbershop a block away from one of the homes, said he's angry.

    “I'm feeling disrespected you know just coming into the neighborhood and just trying to make a statement and nobody knows why,” Smith said.

    Neighbors Action News spoke to say the feeling of uneasiness will stop once police catch whoever is responsible.

    Investigators have still not deemed the fourth fire arson, but they haven't ruled it out. Action News has learned they first want to make sure it was started the same way and by the same person as the other three fires on Cordova and Sargossa that have been ruled arson. 

    If you have any information that could help investigators catch the arsonist, you're asked to call 877-NO-ARSON.

    Next Up: