PINELLAS PARK – A Pinellas Park man was accused of arson for the July 21 apartment fire that engulfed a four-unit, two-story apartment building at 7380 63rd St. and killed two cats.
Clifford Paul Hyatt, 39, lived in apartment B in the building.
Fire investigators found irregular burn patterns that suggested the use of an accelerant on the floor of a room where he lived, said fire spokesman Lt. Gary Berkheimer. Hyatt’s apartment took the brunt of the fire damage.
“The other apartments just sustained heat and smoke damage,” Berkheimer said.
Firefighters responded shortly after 11:30 p.m. Twenty-five firefighters from 12 units fought to keep the flames from spreading that night.
Pinellas Park police arrested Hyatt on July 22 for first-degree arson. They believed he started the fire inside his unit, police spokesman Sgt. Brian Unmisig said.
Two neighbors walking home from the grocery store first saw the fire and called 911. They broke a window to wake one resident who was sleeping in his apartment, Unmisig said. They also kicked in the door of another apartment to alert a second resident.
There were three cats living in apartment D. While one escaped, two were killed in the fire, Unmisig said. Police charged Hyatt with two felony counts of cruelty to animals for their deaths.
None of the residents were injured in the fire. Hyatt was on scene during the fire, Berkheimer said. Police have not released a motive for the alleged arson.
The investigation is ongoing. Samples of the possible accelerant were sent to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to be tested, Berkheimer said.
Berkheimer said that while arson is not the typical reason behind a fire, the Pinellas Park Fire Department already has investigated two other arson cases this year. A fire that started in the carport of the home at 7441 35th St. N. on May 23 was classified as arson. The department also investigated the fire in which the body of Gary Yarnell was found on May 28. Police now believe the fire was set to cover his murder.