Authorities arrested a man they say was seen throwing a homemade firebomb into the woods on Wednesday in Palm Bay, where several homes have been gutted by wildfires this week.
Authorities said Brian Crowder set a small blaze that was quickly extinguished. They planned to question the 31-year-old about larger wildfires that have found ample fuel in developments in the region, where the state has not held controlled burns to cut back vegetation.
A resident alerted police after seeing Crowder throw an object from his car that sparked the fire, Palm Bay Detective Ernie Diebel said.
The object was a bottle containing a flammable liquid, Palm Bay Police Chief Bill Berger said.
The resident described a dark car and officers stopped Crowder’s vehicle shortly afterward. Crowder got out of his car and fled, Diebel said.
Officers tracked Crowder through the woods with the help of other residents who spotted him running past their homes, police said.
Records show that Crowder has drug, burglary and automobile theft convictions dating from 1996. He was charged on Wednesday with six probation violations, but has so far not been charged with setting any fires. He was being treated at a hospital for minor injuries caused by a police dog when officers took him into custody, Berger said.
Authorities have said they believe the wildfires burning in Palm Bay and neighboring Malabar were set by an arsonist or arsonists.