Palm Harbor fire threatens homes; boys arrested

Published May 31, 2007

Two Palm Harbor boys were arrested and face a felony charge after they admitted setting a brush fire Wednesday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

The boys were spotted a little after 6 p.m. fleeing from a brushy area near Lake St. George Drive and Countryside Boulevard near the Florida Power line area, sheriff's spokeswoman Cecelia Barreda said. At the same time, passers-by and a deputy spotted smoke and flames on the land.

More than 40 firetrucks and rescue vehicles took 90 minutes to quell the fire. Fifteen nearby homes were evacuated as flames came within 50 yards of some of the buildings. Deputies closed St. George Drive from Countryside Boulevard to Lake Shore Drive in Palm Harbor while firefighters battled the blaze.

Firefighters had the blaze under control by about 7:25 p.m., said Elizabeth Monforti, public information officer for Palm Harbor Fire Rescue. Residents were allowed to return to their homes shortly after, but firefighters continued to watch for hot spots and to ensure the fire did not reignite.

While firefighters battled the blaze, deputies spoke with witnesses who saw the boys. At first, the boys denied they had anything to do with the fire, but later they confessed, Barreda said.

The boys, aged 12 and 13, face a felony charge of wilful, malicious, or intentional burning of land. The Times is withholding their names due to their ages.

There were no injuries and no damage other than burned brush, Monforti said.