INDIANTOWN - Three children are being blamed for setting a weekend fire in Indiantown, where several fires have ravaged the community this week, according to the state Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement.
The children, ages 7, 8 and 10, whose names were not released, have been charged with intentional burning of lands, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years behind bars, said agency spokesman, Maj. Bob Johnson.
All were released to their parents.
Information on which fires the juveniles are responsible for starting and which were started by lightning strikes were not available, he said.
Arrest affidavits for the juveniles are expected to be released sometime today, he said.
On Sunday, the juveniles allegedly were striking matches and throwing them into the grass and palmettos in a wooded area near Palm Beach Street and 173rd Street Southwest in Indiantown, a statement from agricultural law enforcement agency says.
The embers from that fire soon spread, causing other fires and an undetermined amount of monetary damage to other properties, the release states.
Learning that children played a role in starting the Indiantown fires that have scorched more than 2,000 acres this week was no surprise to Martin County Fire Rescue spokesman Jon Belding.
Resident Nayeli Perez, who has lived on 173rd Street for 12 years, said on Sunday afternoon she saw three children playing in the woods behind her house.
At first, Perez said, she didn't think anything of it because the area has a lot of families with children.
"I saw them throw something like a firecracker, and 10 minutes later I heard a sound like rain but it wasn't raining," she said.
The sound Perez heard was the fire burning the grass and palmettos, and quickly engulfing nearby trees.
As she went to call 911, she said, a Martin County sheriff's deputy pulled up to her house and told her and other residents to evacuate.
"We didn't return until 11 at night and there was a tree still burning," she said.
As of Wednesday evening, the fires were still smoldering and not contained.