St. Petersburg Times--State and Metro

Two teens charged in Melbourne brush fire


Associated Press, June 18, 2003 - 02:51 AM

MELBOURNE, Fla.
Two 15-year-old boys were charged with starting a brush fire that spread quickly, burned 35 acres and threatened several homes here.

Travis Preston Mills and Gordon Phillip Ward III were arrested Tuesday night and charged with arson, said Cmdr. Ron Bell, a spokesman for the Melbourne Police Department. The teens were taken to the Juvenile Detention Center in nearby Sharpes.

Mills and Ward were in the woods smoking cigars Tuesday when they took a lighter and started the fire in a pine-needle packed pizza box they found, Bell said.

No one was injured in the blaze, which began about 2 p.m. and moved to the back fence line of several homes in the Summer Brook subdivision.

"Obviously this had the potential of spreading worse than what it did," Bell said. "It was irresponsible, and they should have known better."

No homes were evacuated, even though the blaze was fueled by a strong easterly breeze. Parts of Wickham Road, a major thoroughfare in Melbourne, were closed due to smoke and flames. And many residents fended off the fire with garden hoses or sprinklers until firefighters got it under control.