MW Horticulture VP believes multiple fires are the work of an arsonist

Reporter: Nicole Gabe
Published: Updated:

For years we have been reporting on fires breaking out at MW Horticulture in North Fort Myers.

Videos of flames and smoke at the site show separate occasions ranging from October 2018 to just this past Sunday.

Now, the owner thinks some of the fires are arson.

Neighbors say there are too many fires to count. Sunday’s fire burned hot for hours, but the smoke remained for two days.

“You have the sirens and the red lights and the apprehension,” said Denise Houghtaling, the vice president of the recycling facility.

She said she believes an arsonist is targeting her business.

MW Horticulture Vice President Denise Houghtaling (WINK News)

“I cannot get into the details…that would really hinder the investigation,” Houghtaling said.

When we asked if she had any evidence, she again said it would “impede the investigation at this time and we want to make sure that does not get botched.”

The Bayshore fire chief said he has no reason to believe this fire is suspicious. The same is true for the fire in February that Houghtaling also believes is the work of an arsonist.

The trouble at MW Horticulture started after Hurricane Irma in 2017. The company took on tons of debris which eventually caught fire. Houghtaling blames Lee County’s leadership.

“And we look like the jerks in the community because this pile has been on fire or was on fire for a year because they did not let us manage it properly,” Houghtaling said.

We asked Houghtaling if she felt responsible in any way for the fires, to which she replied, “Absolutely. I mean, I would be an idiot to say that I don’t. I absolutely feel for the community.”

The company said it has hired a fire expert to determine whether Sunday’s fire is arson.

Lee County started to fine MW Horticulture $200 a day in July of last year for various county violations, but the company has filed for bankruptcy protection.

So until the matter goes before a judge, things are stagnant. The county said those fines now total more than $50,000.

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