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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – An explosive night at Miami’s Melreese Golf Course as dozens of golf carts went up in flames.
When firefighters arrived Tuesday night at the course, which is just east of Miami International Airport, they found the parking area for the golf carts fully engulfed in flames that were starting to reach the building. They immediately started to douse the fire and keep it away from the building.
In all, they say 44 carts were either burned, severely damaged, or destroyed. There were no reports of any injuries.
“I never knew golf carts would melt like that,” said a stunned golfer Wayne Cypen.
The golf course was closed at the time of the fire and it does have a security guard.
“As with any of our fire calls we take into consideration access to the building or a property, was it closed, did anybody have access, was there work taking place, so there are multiple things that we would look into in determining the cause of a fire,” said Miami Fire Rescue Captain Ignatius Carroll Jr.
The manager of the golf course said the fire was arson. He said on surveillance video of the parking area you can see a man shoving towels under the carts. When the fire doesn’t burn fast enough, he does it again and that’s when the flames really flared up.
He added that the gas-powered carts are brand new, they only arrived about three weeks ago.
This is the same golf course where David Beckham and developer Jorge Mas are planning, should it be approved, a mega soccer complex with a 28-thousand seat stadium, hotels, tech space and more. There’s been a highly contentious battle over building the complex on the grounds occupied by the golf course.
Recently, in a split 3-2 vote, the City Commission approved the change of use to be on the ballot this November for voter approval.
That decision is facing a legal challenge. On Tuesday, an emergency hearing was scheduled after a local lawyer filed suit saying the city had violated the charter by not opening up the property for competitive bidding. That hearing was reset for next week.
It has not been determined if the fire is related to the soccer complex deal.
“If it was done by someone supporting the stadium it doesn’t make sense as it was so far away from that,” said Cypen.
Investigators say they are looking into the possibility that this fire is connected to another arson at nearby Grapeland Park in June, that had nothing to with the stadium.
The Grapeland Water Park is just three blocks south of the golf course on Northwest 37th Avenue.
“Both of these incidents are very similar in nature, there was a City of Miami pickup truck that was located and found in the early morning,” said Carroll.
Carroll told CBS4’S Peter D’Oench that investigators have been looking at the surveillance tape. “We did see someone who is a person of interest and we are working with police to try to identify him.”
Investigators suspect the arsonist climbed over gates that were locked at the country club before the blaze started around 10:30 at night.
The Fire Marshall, Miami Fire Rescue and Miami Police are all investigating.
Anyone with information that can help authorities should call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).