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Investigators search for possible arsonist after 14 fires intentionally set in Winter Haven

Posted at 2:55 PM, Jan 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-08 17:15:44-05

Fourteen fires in just six months.

The State Fire Marshal says a rash of house fires were set intentionally in Winter Haven.

Now those living there say they are afraid their homes could be targeted next.

“In the room, I could smell smoke,” Lisa Cooper lives just a door down from one of the latest fires.

In fact, her mother-in-law rents out the mobile home that went up in flames, on 8th street. 

“It was so smoky out here you could hardly see,” Cooper said she woke up her husband and ran outside to see the home burning.

Although, she was surprised, only worried that the trend of fires in the Eloisa area was continuing. 

“Almost every street has been affected,” Cooper said.

In the last six months four homes on Cooper’s street have burned.

Investigators say fourteen homes have caught on fire along Snively Avenue since July 2017.

“It’s just a matter of time someone’s going to get hurt,” Cooper said.

ABC Action News spoke with multiple neighbors who say they fear it could happen to them next.

“It could happen to anyone you know,” Stacey Hale lives on 4th street and says she wasn’t home when it happened, but the charred remains of a home across the street have her worried for her family’s safety. 

We also talked to Lazaro Guzman on 8th street who says he watched his own son’s home burn just shortly after he bought it.

“If it burns down, we don’t know whether not we’re gonna make it or not,” Guzman said, worried for his own family’s lives.

So far, no one has been hurt but that’s what Cooper is afraid of.

“That’s our greatest concern, is somebody dying over this,” Cooper said.

Investigators say the arsonist(s) are targeting abandoned homes.

“It’s happening between 12 and one in the morning so they are waiting for everyone to be asleep,” Cooper said she and the other neighbors have been having trouble sleeping since the fires began.

Neighbors also say they’re losing sleep worrying whether the next fire will be set in their home, or someone else’s. 

“We have to be we have to be vigilant, we have to be aware of what’s going on in our community so this can be stopped,” Cooper said.

A map with dates and times of the fires can be seen here. If anyone has information about this investigation they are urged to contact Heartland Crime Stoppers. 1-800-226-TIPS (8477)