FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office say they have arrested the man behind two dumpster fires ignited behind businesses.
Deputies responded to a Citgo gas station at 4920 Belle Terre Parkway at 12:21 a.m. Wednesday. An employee at the nearby Publix reported the fire, telling investigators they saw someone in a gray shirt and black pants ignite the flames, according to a news release.
Investigators said when they arrived, there were small flames that were put out with a fire extinguisher. They noticed the fire had been started on a fence that was attached to the Citgo and near a dumpster.
Deputies say about 15 minutes later, they conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle on Pine Cone Drive and Palm Coast Parkway after noticing a piece of cardboard was taped over the license plate. Authorities identified the driver as 26-year-old Daniel DaCosta, describing him as “nervous” and “shaking” in a Sheriff’s Office press release.
As deputies were conducting the traffic stop, FCSO units were called to another dumpster fire behind a nearby Pizza Hut and Kawa Sushi. Deputies released DaCosta from the traffic stop to go investigate the fire, a news release said.
Deputies said the large dumpster was fully engulfed when they arrived, the flames reaching as high as 15 feet. Deputy body-camera video shows deputies trying to extinguish the fire, but they were not able to.
Investigators said since the fires were in close proximity to each other, they believed they were started by the same person. As deputies searched for a suspect they spoke to the Publix employee who reported the first fire and viewed footage from the store’s surveillance cameras.
Deputies spotted a man in the footage who looked like DaCosta holding an object in his hands.
Investigators later made contact with the 26-year-old, where he initially denied involvement in the fires, according to a news release. He later admitted to setting the two fires, deputies learning the lighters he used to ignite the flames were still in his pockets.
DaCosta told deputies he made a “fire bomb” and threw it at the first business, according to a news release. He took a different approach to the second business, making a teepee out of cardboard and newspaper on top of the other dumpster then lighting it on fire. According to Sheriff’s Office release, DaCosta drove by the businesses to see how the fires were burning.
“This is a textbook arsonist,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said in a news release. “Start fires and then remain in the area to watch. He could have easily caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage due to his criminal actions.”
Staly attributed the deputies’ traffic stop for a quick arrest in the case.
“This could have had a catastrophic outcome and he may not have been caught,” he said.
DaCosta is now charged with two counts of second-degree arson and one count of possession of a firebomb.