Suspicious fires continue along U.S. 1
By Derek Simmonsen staff writer
December 4, 2003

FORT PIERCE -- Two semi-truck fires near U.S. 1 Tuesday night could be related to more than a dozen suspicious fires set in the area since January, a fire official said.

"All we can say is that they're in the same general vicinity," Battalion Chief Carlos Duran, a St. Lucie County Fire District spokesman, said Wednesday. "They all are suspicious."

There have been 17 possible arson fires along or near South U.S. 1 since early January. Investigators have not linked all of the fires to the same person or people, but the way the fires were set and the locations are cause for suspicion, he said.

The most recent fires happened around 10:30 p.m. at McNamara Graves Inc., a trucking company in the 300 block of Dixon Drive, Duran said. Firefighters found one semi-truck engulfed in flames and a second truck cab also on fire, he said.

The fires were quickly brought under control, but not before they caused approximately $25,000 worth of damage to the trucks, Duran said. The first truck, used by the business for spare parts, was destroyed in the fire and the second truck had heavy damage inside, he said.

Arson is suspected in the two fires, which were set separately, Duran said.

The fires took place close to Camper Connection, the site of another suspicious blaze on Nov. 20. In that incident, four campers were set on fire at the recreational vehicle dealership, just north of McNamara & Graves on U.S. 1, according to a previous report. Damage was estimated at about $10,000.

Local investigators have been working with the State Fire Marshal's Office in probing the cause of the fires.

The fires have happened between Midway Road north to Gardenia Avenue along U.S. 1, according to fire officials. About 14 of 17 suspicious fires were set between January and July.

The fires have ranged from a Dumpster fire to blazes at an unoccupied gas station and more than one RV dealership. The fires have generally been set between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., according to past reports.

One of the largest fires took place June 2 at a closed Marathon gas station in the 3800 block of South U.S. 1, according to reports. Firefighters found the building in flames when they arrived. They estimated the fire caused about $100,000 worth of damage.

- derek.simmonsen@scripps.com