Reward offered for arrest in palm tree fires

The Galveston County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating whether arson is to blame for a series of palm tree fires on Galveston Island, and a local man is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the fires.

Palm trees have been found to be burning on the island "every so often" for the past decade, yet investigators have not been able to prove it's arson, according to a spokeswoman for the Fire Marshal's Office. She says there have been three palm tree fires so far in 2019--the most recent one occurring Sunday morning before dawn at the intersection of Avenue Q and 27th Street.

"There's no way that lightning would burn a palm tree like that on Saturday night or early Sunday morning when we didn't have any rain," said Greg West whose tree service business is just down the street from the burned tree. "That's intentionally sent on fire."

West reported the fire to the Fire Marshal's Office. He's offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

"What this guy's doing is very disturbing," said West. "He's gonna get somebody killed one day."

Blocks away another palm tree fire was captured on camera in April when residents noticed it--again before dawn--minutes after it started.

"She heard what she thought as rain," said Treacy McReynolds of her daughter. "I go, 'Well it sounds like hail to me....' She opens the screen door, and she goes, 'The tree's on fire! The tree's on fire!'"

Photos show McReynolds using a garden hose on the flames while her daughter called 911.

"The flames were higher than the top of the house," said McReynolds.

A few blocks from there on 26th Street, two more trees caught fire several months ago, said West, pointing out the burned bark still on the trees. 

"He's gotta be lighting them from the bottom up," said West, pointing out blackened bark at the base of the tree. "It looks like he's squirting something on there to catch them on fire."

Another palm tree fire occurred in March blocks away at 27th Street and Avenue M1/2, according to David Lopez whose home is feet from the tree. He says it also ignited in the wee hours of the morning. The bark is still visibly scorched today.

"I just happened to notice a bright light at that hour," said Lopez. "I said, 'What the heck?' I get up. There's a swarm of fire going everywhere."

Lopez says the fire spread to his yard before it was put out. He says it's the second palm tree set on fire on his property in the past two years, and he hopes whoever is setting the fires gets caught. 

"Out having fun at night thinking it's cute--don't realize they're putting people's life in danger," said Lopez.

Anyone with information about the cause of the fires is asked to call the Galveston County Fire Marshal's Office.