Fire crews looking for arsonist in latest brush fire in eastern Polk County

Posted at 6:46 PM, Apr 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-25 02:29:16-04

Firefighters are keeping a close eye on Indian Lake Estates in Polk County to make sure the latest brush fire there doesn’t rekindle and threaten more homes.

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to figure who started the fire, saying it could be arson.

This is now the eighth fire in the last three weeks in Indian Lake Estates. They are all considered suspicious, but officials don’t have any solid leads on who may be starting them.


PHOTOS: Crews battle large brush fire at Indian Lake Estates


“They did a hell of a job, those guys,” said Stephen Tripodi, who evacuated Friday and thought he would have nothing to return to.

Somehow, someway, the firefighters managed to stop the blaze about 30 feet form Tripodi’s home.

It’s the same story all around the community.

“Very lucky. Very lucky. Everyone here should feel very lucky,” he said.

Although 800 people had to evacuate on Friday, fire crews managed to save all the homes.

The only destruction occurred at the community’s maintenance shed Friday afternoon, where they store law mowers, tractors, and other equipment.

Al Oliveri was able to rush in and save about half of the 23 pieces of equipment parked inside.

“Just hopped in and drove them out,” he said.

The best thing that could happen to the community is a torrential downpour. Although the residents did get a few minutes of rain showers Monday morning, it wasn’t enough to end the fire danger.

“We need an inch or two to make a difference… but any bit helps,” said Rick Britt with the Florida Forest Service.

Officials said it could be a month or longer until this dry part of Polk County gets out of the danger zone, making the search for an arsonist all the more pressing.

”It’s kind of unnerving. It’s very difficult to comprehend why anyone would want to do that,” said Tripodi.