Per Palm Bay Police Department Press Release:
(Palm Bay)–A 52-year-old suspect is in custody facing felony charges in connection with setting multiple fires in the City. Ralph David Atkins, (DOB 03/01/1959) was arrested Thursday morning near his home on Toy Street after a lengthy investigation that began in 2009. Atkins faces four counts of intentional burning of lands and is being held in the Brevard County Detention Center under a $200,000 bond pending an initial court appearance scheduled for Friday.
In February 2010, in response to an increase in wild land fires, a task force was created comprised of representatives from the Palm Bay Police Department, Palm Bay Fire Marshal’s Office, Melbourne Police Department, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service and the Central Florida CRIMELINE. Since January 2010 Palm Bay Fire-Rescue responded to 431 brush fires, many of which were considered suspicious in nature. The fires endangered lives and property and continued to escalate in frequency.
As part of the investigation police saturated the area at targeted times and locations. Through undercover operations a suspicious vehicle was identified. The investigation also yielded numerous tips from the public including anonymous calls to CRIMELINE that helped investigators identify Atkins as being the owner and driver of the suspicious vehicle. Subsequent surveillance produced enough probable cause to obtain an arrest warrant for Atkins in connection with at least four fires that were set on May 18th, 20th, and 30th. The fires were in the area of Sable Circle SE and Gulport Rd SE, 970 Taft Avenue SE, Underhill Avenue SE and Alcazar Street SE and 912 Sable Circle SE. “We have evidence that shows Mr. Atkins was in the area each and every time there was a fire,” said Detective Luis Figueroa. “We have other evidence that links him to these four fires and based on that we are able to make a case for his arrest.”
The investigation is ongoing and detectives believe Atkins may also be responsible for other fires. “We believe the public can rest a little easier with the arrest of this individual,” said Fire Marshal Mike Couture. “With every wild land fire there is always danger to lives and property and we are fortunate to have been able to stop this before a real tragedy occurred.”
There is no evidence to indicate Atkins was involved or linked to the Mothers Day 2008 fires.