PUNTA GORDA TOWN, Mon. Jan. 11, 2016–Punta Gorda police have detained an alleged serial arsonist who they say was responsible for causing a series of fires in Punta Gorda Town—setting ablaze two vehicles, a home and a restaurant between 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. on Sunday.
The first fire was reported at about 1:25 Sunday morning. According to police, a vehicle parked on Cayetano Street, Punta Gorda, was engulfed in flames. The Punta Gorda Fire Service quickly extinguished the blaze. However, the 2005 Chevy Colorado, 4-door pickup truck, belonging to Merida Chan, of # 5 Cayetano Street, was completely destroyed.
Chan told police, that around 10:00 o’clock on Saturday night, she and her boyfriend made sure that the vehicle was securely locked before retiring for the night. They went to bed, but at about 1:20 a.m., she woke up and saw that the front of the vehicle was engulfed in flames.
Then, about an hour later, at 2:34 a.m., someone tried to burn down Victor Caliz’s house, on Vernon Street, Punta Gorda. He found that a chair on his verandah was on fire, but he quickly put out the blaze—averting what could have been a major disaster.
Police went to the home of Victor Caliz, who reported that he was at home with his wife and granddaughter when his granddaughter woke him up, stating that she had heard someone walking in the yard.
When he checked to see what was going on, he noticed that a wicker bamboo chair, which was on his front veranda, was ablaze. The fire was quickly extinguished.
Police said that they were looking for Kaleem Chun, who they believe could assist in the investigation into that fire.
Forty-five minutes later, at about 3:15 that same Sunday morning, a third fire was reported in the same area.
Police said that they went to the intersection of Vernon and Front Streets, where they saw the roof of “Gomier’s Place,” the property of Ignatius Longville, 60, a Jamaican businessman, engulfed in flames.
Longville reported that he went to bed earlier that night and was awakened by the smell of smoke. He went outside and saw the building’s wooden roof on fire.
At about 3:40 Sunday morning, while fire officials were busy trying to quell the fire at Gomier’s Place, a fourth fire was reported nearby.
Police said that the fire was seen about 100 yards away from a residence. They and fire officials rushed to the scene and saw a white 2012 Isuzu D-Max 4-door pickup completely engulfed in flames and they immediately extinguished the blaze.
The vehicle, which belonged to Elizabeth Kearns, 54, an American artist of Vernon Street, was completely destroyed.
Kearns told police that she had been sleeping, but was awakened by the sound of sirens and dogs barking, and only then learned that her vehicle, which she had securely parked directly in front of her house, was on fire.
Police have since arrested and charged one man for the destruction of the properties, but he has not yet been formally arraigned in court.