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'It’s scary, it was so close to the house': Lehigh Acres sees tenth suspicious fire this month

Early morning blaze near Ruth Avenue N and 56th Street W marks the latest in a series of suspicious fires in Lehigh Acres
Posted at 7:08 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 19:08:28-04

LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — Early in the morning on Tuesday, May 14th, firefighters put out a brush fire at a vacant lot in Lehigh Acres.

Fox 4’s Austin Schargorodski talked with investigators as soon as he found out about the fire— they believe it’s part of a series of ten fires that all started suspiciously.

Charred trees and brush spanned the entire length of the lot on the corner of Ruth Avenue N and 56th Street W, getting close to a nearby house.

Charred trees and brush spanning the vacant lot in Lehigh Acres, getting close to a nearby home.
Charred trees and brush spanning the vacant lot in Lehigh Acres, getting close to a nearby home.

Chris Cochran, who lives down the street from where the fire happened, said he was surprised to see firetrucks when he walked outside in the morning.

“It’s kind of scary that it was so close to the house,” Cochran added.

Chris Cochran, Lehigh resident who lives down the street from where the fire happened.
Chris Cochran, Lehigh resident who lives down the street from where the fire happened.

Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District’s PIO, Katie Heck, said a nearby homeowner called them just before 5 a.m. because embers were falling in his yard.

Heck said their firefighters arrived to put out the fire by 6 a.m. She says they determined it spread from a porta-potty that was set on fire.

“This is cause for alarm because this is now the tenth fire we’ve had in this concentrated area in just the past month and I believe it’s the fifth or sixth in the past week,” said Heck.

Katie Heck, Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District's PIO
Katie Heck, Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District's PIO

Heck said the fires are suspicious because their investigators ruled out the possibility of lightning or another natural cause starting them.

“Sometimes we do have fires caused by someone throwing out a cigarette or you know, just doing other types of behavior that could start a fire. But, these specifically have been labeled as suspicious because they’re all happening in those early morning hours and in that concentrated area,” Heck explained.

Surveillance footage sent to Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District that shows a truck entering and leaving the area before the fire happened.
Surveillance footage sent to Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District that shows a truck entering and leaving the area before the fire happened.

Heck said a homeowner sent them surveillance footage showing a truck entering and leaving the area just before the fire started. She said they don’t know if the truck is related to the fire, however, their investigators are still working to identify the owner.

“Hopefully residents that live around those areas will go back into their surveillance because a lot of people have home cameras or just ring doorbells— to go back to that timeframe to see if there’s anything out of the ordinary or maybe they do see the same truck go by— and we would love to have copies of that footage,” said Heck.

If anyone has surveillance footage or info that could help them find a suspect, Heck said to reach out to CrimeStoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS.