Off-duty deputy's vehicles set on fire in Lake County, deputies say

Multiple fires reported in area in recent days

By Erik Sandoval - Reporter, Adrienne Cutway - Web Editor

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - An off-duty deputy's vehicles were set on fire early Wednesday morning in Umatilla, adding to a string of possible arson incidents recently reported in the area, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said a call was received about 4:30 a.m. regarding a fire at a home in Umatilla. As first responders were en route, they received clarification that the fire actually affected two personal vehicles that belong to a deputy who was off duty at the time.

No injuries were reported.

The State Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the most recent incident, along with five other fires that occurred in the area since Saturday.

Those fires affected a house, a restaurant, a barn and multiple vehicles.

Lake County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Fred Jones said authorities are offering every resource available to the State Fire Marshal's Office to find whoever is responsible.

"We are going to work hard around the clock to get this guy off the streets, " Jones said.

The Sheriff's Office is also trying to determine if the fire at the deputy's home is connected to the recent string of fires.

"All it takes is one break. That break can come from the community, as far as calling into Crimeline," Jones said. "I have no doubt sooner or later we are going to get a break."

The deputy's neighbor, Leticia Gonzalez, agreed.

"Somebody is going crazy and wants some attention but he's going to get caught," Gonzalez said.

On Wednesday night, many of the residents of Umatilla told News 6 they're worried about who was going to get hit next.

"I fear for my wife and my daughter," Albaro Castillo said.

He said he tries to get home from work as soon as possible to protect his family.

"I'm making sure the doors are locked (and) making sure the lights are on, making sure my gun is right next to me because by the time I go and call the cops, it’ll be way too late," he said. "So, I’m going to protect my family." 

The Lake County fire chief is asking anyone with information about the fires to call 877-NO-ARSON.

The map below shows the approximate locations of all six fires.

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