PALM BAY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Police say a retired police officer, who spent 25 years on the force, identified a suspect starting fires with fireworks in an undeveloped area West of Palm Bay known as "The Compound."
Police say the first brush fire was started in a grassy area. Police and fire were called and they say while they were putting out a fire at Wingham and Rathwell Streets, another one started.
Police say the second fire was started a half mile away on Caplan Street. They say 35-year old Matthew Milton was arrested for intentional burning of land after he was seen watching the fire by a retired police officer David Grenier, who was approached by the suspect.
"The suspect actually asked the former officer if he was going to call it in," said Palm Bay Police Seargant Mike Bandish.
Police say the suspect asked the officer three times if he was going to call 911-- with the warning that "it's going to spread fast." Suspicious of that exchange, the retired officer, who used to work for West Melbourne Police Department, told his wife to call 911 and give police a description of the suspect and the car he was in.
"So we were able to go out there, find him, locate him, caught him in the area while the other fire is actually burning," said Sgt. Bandish.
Police say the suspect had black soot on his finger and a burn hole in his shirt. They say at first he blamed it on an accident with a cigarette, but later cops claim he admitted to lighting the fires with fireworks and said it was a stupid thing to do. Police charged him with two counts of intentional setting of land.