Officials say someone set fire to two palm trees on a vacant lot at 5704 28th Ave S. in Gulfport. This time, a witness saw someone leaving the scene. Around 2:30 this morning, a person saw a white man or teen near the lot during the fire. That witness asked him if he called 9-1-1. Officials say he didn't answer, instead he ran east on 28th Ave S., jumped in a waiting car at the 5500 block (about 2 blocks away from the fire) and sped off heading east.
Officials are looking for a while male about 5'7'' tall with a medium build. He was seen wearing gray sweatpants, a black t-shirt and a baseball hat.
This fire is the first of four this year that has a lead. There were three fires reported during the early morning hours of April 18, but officials say witnesses didn't see anyone or any vehicles involved.
"It's good to get a nice lead like this, we felt it was just a matter of time . . . because these were confined to such a small area it was only a matter of time somebody saw something or someone," Sgt. Robert Burkhart said.
On May 6, 2011, Gulfport Patch reported that the three overnight fires in April could be connected to several suspicious fires in the city in years past. All of the fires are still under investigation. Officials believe today's fire is connected to the others.
"Yes . . . the mode of operation is the same, it's palm trees, late at night, the time frame matches, close to an alley or vacant lot," Sgt. Robert Burkhart said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the s Non-Emergency line at 727-893-1030.