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Date of Issue: December 15, 2005

Thanksgiving fire investigation continues, help sought

The investigation into five suspicious fires on Thanksgiving in Bradenton Beach and Cortez is continuing.

Bradenton Beach Police Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz said that he has identified "persons of interest" involved in the early morning blazes, but declined to elaborate on the ongoing investigations. There were no injuries as a result of the fires.

"All of the fires were intentionally set," West Manatee Fire Marshal Kurt Lathrop has said, "and there were similarities in all five."

Firefighters responded to the first fire shortly after midnight Thanksgiving Day at the rear loading dock of the Bradenton Beach Post Office on First Street. Bins filled with undeliverable third-class mail had been set aflame.

The fire caused smoke damage to the exterior of the post office and melted several of the plastic bins postal employees use to transport mail. Damage was estimated at $2,500.

As West Manatee Fire & Rescue firefighters were wrapping up the post office fire, another call came in to the north. A boat on a trailer in the 100 block of Ninth St. N. had burst into flames.

Firefighters from Station No. 2 were able to put out the fire, which destroyed the vessel, and were still on scene when they were called to another fire next to a house in the 2200 block of Avenue C.

That fire was quickly extinguished as well.

In the morning light, firefighters were called back to the city when yet another blaze next to a building, this time in the 100 block of Highland Avenue, was discovered.

The next day, a cleaning woman at the Cortez Post Office on Cortez Road reported evidence of a fire on the outside of the building. Again, no significant damage was evident.

The investigation is continuing among the West Manatee Fire & Rescue District, Bradenton Beach Police, postal investigators and the state fire marshal's office.

Diaz said anyone with information regarding the fires should call him at 778-1005, ext. 223.