Abandoned, foreclosed homes become arson targets - WFLA News Channel 8

Abandoned, foreclosed homes become arson targets

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Tampa fire says arson numbers up with the large numbers of abandoned homes. Tampa fire says arson numbers up with the large numbers of abandoned homes.
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Gerald Gibson says he spotted an arsonist in the act.  He recognized the man as a vagrant that he often sees biking through the neighborhood, collecting cans.

Gibson says he saw the man at the front of a home on Byrd Street, and then watched as he set a fire. Gibson says, "He set the fire in the doorway and it started going up to the roof and the tree tops." There was no question in Gibson's mind what the man was doing.  "He had to be an arsonist to set the fire for the hell of it."

Out of eleven fires reported in Tampa during the month of January, six are believed to be arson. Out of 191 fires in Tampa last year, 75 are suspected arson.

Debra Sue Warshefski of Tampa Fire Rescue says foreclosed and abandoned homes are frequent targets for fire. "When ever there is an abandoned structure, the people they come in, they come to these places that are not secure and then they go ahead and utilize those as their safe home."

Warshefski says vagrants often set fires to stay warm in abandoned buildings. She also says economic reasons are another cause of arson.  "Economic gain is always a consideration when we investigate the fires, so we definitely consider that."

Tampa Fire Rescue says 44% of arsons in Tampa resulted in arrests last year, well above the national average.

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