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Investigation continues into rash of fires at Bimini Gardens apartments

By Staff | Oct 22, 2009

Authorities continue to investigate a string of suspicious fires that Wednesday forced residents to evacuate the Bimini Gardens Luxury Apartments because of extensive damage and a concern over their safety.
This is the fourth time officials have responded to a fire at the apartments at 4825 Tarpon Court in the last two weeks. Investigators have no doubt that the fires are being set intentionally by a serial arsonist.
Last week emergency responders dealt with a small fire in the front of the building, followed by an evisceration of a Ford Escort and Mitsubishi Mirage — both red sedans — that went up in flames only days apart.
A criminal investigation has been ongoing by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, which confirmed the fires are arson. The agency’s officers are actively seeking and speaking with persons of interest.
Firefighters responded to the second floor of Bimini Gardens to deal with a blaze at 1:10 a.m. Wednesday, according to city spokesperson Connie Barron. The fire was extinguished, but the apartment was destroyed and the unit below sustained heavy water damage.
“The three other units were evacuated and residents were encouraged to find other living arrangements for the remainder of the night and until they feel safe to return,” Barron said.
Joshua Brooks and Robert Ritchie were roommates for six months in the downstairs apartment now saturated with water. They spent Wednesday morning carrying out the last of their belongings near a pile of black, soot-covered debris.
“Why would someone do this to two college kids and a family?” Brooks asked.
He said the adjacent upstairs apartment housed a father and his two children, who were not at the residence Wednesday afternoon.
Brooks was at a friend’s house when he received a call at approximately 2:30 a.m. from the Cape Coral Fire Department about his apartment. He was not allowed to enter his home until later Wednesday morning after fire crews left.
Most of his possessions are now destroyed.
“I’m a 20-year-old college kid and I lost everything I had,” Brooks said. “We don’t have much to move, some sentimental things.”
Ritchie, on the other hand, said he is looking forward to leaving the area and has not been happy in Cape Coral for quite some time. Neither Ritchie nor Brooks have any idea who continues to set fires at their apartment complex.
“It could be somebody doing stupid stuff or somebody actually after someone,” Ritchie said.
“We don’t have any problems with anybody,” Brooks added.
A police officer was patrolling the Tarpon Court neighborhood before the fire started but left the area, he said. Most likely the fire was ignited in that window of time.
Both men will stay with friends, but it is unclear where the other tenants will stay.
According to Barron, relocation for the tenants was not finalized by Wednesday afternoon. He added that the apartments are condemned.
RTS of Cape Coral, the property managers of Bimini Gardens, were unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Fire investigators are asking anyone who has any information on the person or persons involved in the fires to call the Arson Hotline at (877) 662-7766.
Tips that lead to the identification of the person are eligible for a $2,500 reward.