Holmes Beach arson investigation continues
State and West Manatee Fire Rescue District officials continued last
week to investigate what they deemed an arson at a
Holmes Beach apartment on May 25.
"This is the slow part of things," said
Kurt Lathrop, deputy fire marshal for WMFR.
One man, resident Mark Pelham, was
treated for smoke inhalation after escaping the fire
at 6814 Palm Drive.
Pelham, a guitarist
with the band Bootleg, discovered the fire at the entrance - the only door - to
his second-story apartment and had to battle heat and smoke to escape.
the blaze in about five minutes. Officials estimated
property damage at about $50,000, and the fire damage was limited to
one side of the upstairs duplex.
About 20 rescue workers
assisted in fighting the fire, including WMFR firefighters,
Longboat Key Fire Rescue, Holmes Beach Police Department officers and
Manatee County Emergency Medical Services staff.
said officials had concluded that the fire was intentionally
set, but they are still investigating the incident.
still doing our basic followup," Lathrop said, adding that the investigation
involved reviewing property ownership and insurance records.
Manatee County Property Appraiser records
for the site show that 6814 Palm Drive #A, valued at
$271,665, is owned by M.C. Stafford of the United Kingdom,
and 6814 Palm Drive #B, valued at $273,599, is owned
by Adam John Stafford of the United Kingdom. The property owners could
not be reached.
Lathrop, who is working with the state fire
marshal's office and the Holmes Beach Police Department on the case, declined
to discuss whether investigators had identified a suspect or suspects.
declined to say how the fire was started.
"We can't go into that," the
deputy marshal said.
The on-site investigation, however, has
concluded, Lathrop said.
Outside the duplex last week, burned and
water-damaged debris remained. Red caution tape barred
access to the property and a sign offered a cash reward for help solving
The incident could
result in an attempted murder charge as well as an
Arson, according to the Florida Statutes,
involves willfully or unlawfully causing damage by
fire or explosion. The crime is a first-degree felony if the fire is
set with the belief that a person is inside the structure.