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Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Arsonists sought in wildfire outbreak

May 14, 2008

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— Investigators searched Tuesday for one or more arsonists behind a string of stubborn wildfires that have destroyed at least 40 homes on Florida's Atlantic coast.

Firefighters in Brevard County were trying for the third day to contain fires that have scorched an estimated 10,000 acres, or more than 15 square miles, in and around the neighboring towns of Palm Bay and Malabar.

Though the high winds fueling the flames Monday had slowed significantly, officials worried about them spreading quickly in the dry conditions.

All 18 schools in Palm Bay were closed Tuesday. Smoke and the proximity of the flames have caused the intermittent closure of major highways in the area, including a 34-mile section of Interstate 95 south of the fires that was closed again at midmorning Tuesday.

Palm Bay police were working with the state fire marshal's office and Brevard County Fire Rescue to investigate who set several fires that spread into a larger, uncontrollable blaze.

"Some are caused by embers that are flying, but the locations of the fires indicated that these were initiated separately, which makes us firmly believe that an individual or individuals was involved in setting those," Police Chief Bill Berger said.

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