Hillsborough Fire Officials Accuse Man of Arson
The Thonotosassa man admitted setting two fires, Hillsborough fire officials said.
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY – A Thonotosassa man has confessed to setting two fires in what Hillsborough fire officials say was a “spree” of arson fires.
Matthew Wayne Ethridge, 27, of 10004 Causey Place, Thonotosassa,has been charged with two counts of second degree arson, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. Fire officials say he admitted setting two fires.
Fire officials said the investigation was started after a May 30 fire burned a storage building was burned at the Temple Terrace Pony Baseball Complex. A fire investigation conducted by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue concluded the blaze was caused by arson but no suspect was identified. Hillsborough fire, Temple Terrace Fire Rescue, the State Fire Marshal and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office joined forces to investigate further.
At a June 12 fire, a Hillsborough deputy saw a man on a bicycle near the fire. The man, who was identified as Ethridge, claimed to be riding his bicycle by the area and saw the fire trucks but he denied any involvement in the fire, according to fire officials. Fire investigators reviewed records and determined a March fire in the area also shared similar characteristics. Investigators said they also found that Ethridge was serving probation for a bomb hoax at the time of the June 12 fire.
Ethridge was questioned by HCFR fire investigators at his Thonotossassa home on June 21. Investigators said he admitted to a lifelong affinity to fire and professed his admiration of fire service personnel since childhood. They said he confessed to setting two of the four fires investigators were focusing on. He was arrested without incident.
HCFR is still working with other area agencies to determine if Ethridge is responsible for additional fires in the Tampa Bay area.
For information about Hillsborough Fire Rescue, go to hillsboroughcounty.org.
Photograph of burned building courtesy of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.
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