Man arrested in connection to Palm Bay brush fires

Stephen Tatro alleged to have links to at least 5 fires

PALM BAY, Fla. – A man was arrested on Wednesday in connection to brush fires in Palm Bay, the Palm Bay Fire Rescue reported.

The man, Stephen Tatro, was observed leaving an area where two fires had been started.

"Our investigators were able to observe him get out of his vehicle at those locations and almost survey the scene,' Palm Bay police Cmdr. John Resh said.

Authorities believe he is linked to at least five brush fires that have occurred in the compound in the last two months, official said.

"These fires have caused numerous strain on our units and committed a lot of resources to them," Palm Bay Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Rusty Nail said.

On Wednesday deputies followed Tatro while he went back to three previous burn locations near Angora Street SW, J.A. Bombardier Boulevard, and St. Andrew Boulevard, according to the arrest report.

"It was reported to us by one person that he had gone to an area of a fire, bent down, picked up some grass clippings...almost like he was somehow, that it was helping whatever sickness he has," Resh said.

Deputies then followed him to a new spot at the intersection of Sugarloaf and Dirckson Street Southwest where he started a fire at the northeast and northwest corner of the intersection.

Deputies attempted to conduct a traffic stop with their lights on, but Tatro failed to stop and continued at a high rate of speed, the arrest report said.

Another police vehicle stopped him and Tatro exited his vehicle and lay on the ground.

In an audio recorded statement, Tatro confessed to starting the three previous fires in the compound area and confessed to the two fires on Wednesday.

"One of the comments that he made to our detective was other people have gotten away with this in the past so he decided he could probably get away with it also," Resh said.

Police said each fire Tatro intentionally set put first-responders and residents' lives in danger.

"We feel that this arrest has made our citizens and us a lot safer," Resh said.

The investigation is ongoing, officials said.

Tatro is charged with five counts of maliciously burning land and one count of fleeing and eluding police. He posted his $15,000 bail. He was expected to be released Thursday evening, but he was Baker Acted and is going to a local mental health facility.

If you have any more information on this incident, please contact the Palm Bay Police Department at 321-952-3456 or Crimeline 1-800-423-8477.

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