Former restaurant fire called suspicious

3rd suspicious blaze in 4-mile radius since Sept. 20

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Firefighters call the fire at an abandoned restaurant in Argyle Forest early Wednesday morning suspicious.  State arson investigators say this was the third suspicious commercial property fire in a 4-mile radius on Jacksonville's Westside in the past five weeks.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said the former Bennigan's location on Blanding Boulevard near Youngerman Circle caught fire before 5:30 a.m.

There was no word on if anyone was inside at the time of the fire, but the building is abandoned and was boarded.

The State Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the fire, one of three on the Westside suspicious in nature since Sept. 20.

Investigators are not yet connecting the fires to each other, though all were within a 4-mile radius.

On Saturday, an early morning fire destroyed a Westside hotel that was under construction. The fire broke out about 3:30 a.m. at the Value Place Extended Stay on 103rd Street.

More than 75 firefighters tackled the flames, which witnesses said shot up more than 100 feet into the air.

On Sept. 20, the Church of the Epiphany on Harlow Boulevard caught fire. It's only a half-mile away from the hotel fire, at the intersection of 103rd and Interstate 295.

The church is vacant and the property is up for sale.

Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson said even though investigators have not linked the fires, that does not mean that there isn't an arsonist on the loose. So people in that area need to be very vigilant and watchful for any type of suspicious activity, such as people with gas cans or accelerants.

Anyone with any information about the fires is asked to call the State Fire Marshal's Office tip line at 877-662-7766. A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the identification of anyone responsible if it is determined the fires were the result of arson.

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