UPDATED 9.21.2011 by Julie Montanaro
Vandals struck at a Tallahassee cemetery this morning, toppling headstones and starting a fire that spread through the dry grass.
The ground was charred and still smoking when we got there.
Fire spread along the fence line and among the graves here at Serenity Cemetery Wednesday morning.
It's what locals call a "pauper" cemetery ... a graveyard for those without any family to claim them or more likely, money to bury them.
"Sometimes people ask me about the little red gate that's over there and whenever I tell them it's a cemetery for homeless people and people who can't afford to have a decent burial, they're always so suprised. I mean, if you didn't walk back there, you don't even know it's there," said Brittany Dugie who works across the street.
The county run cemetery is tucked among the trees near Capital Circle and Munson Landing Road. There are 476 people buried here. A few of the more recent graves have names, but most just have numbers.
Vandals toppled some of the headstones and pulled others out of the ground. A charred beer can sits nearby. Firefighters have no way of knowing whether this fire started accidentally or if it was set on purpose.
"I mean, it's terrible someone would even do this. There's homeless people around here so I figured it was a campfire, but for some of the actual stones to be vandalized and things of that nature, it had to be something more," Dugie said.
A Leon County spokesman says 10-20 people a year are buried in the indigent cemetery. He says says both flowers and visitors are a rarity.
[UPDATE] Leon County, Florida - September 21, 2011 - Noon -
Vandals struck a Leon County cemetery this morning and started a brush fire as well.
The cemetery is tucked in the woods off Crawfordville Highway. It's a burial ground for folks who have never been claimed by their next of kin or couldn't afford a proper burial elsewhere.
Each of the graves is marked with a simple concrete slab with a number on it. This morning, firefighters rushed to the scene around 9:30am. At noon, the ground is still charred and smoking. Several headstones have been disturbed.
There's not a lot of damage as the fire didn't spread beyond a corner of the cemetery and firefighters aren't sure if it was an accident or if it was intentional.
Leon County, Florida - September 21, 2011 - 10am
Tallahassee firefighters and Leon County Sheriff deputies are on the scene at a cemetery off Crawfordville Road in Leon County. LCSO says someone set a fire in the cemetery and may have vandalized graves.
The cemetery is at the intersection of Crawfordville and Munson and is a burial ground for folks who cannot afford a proper burial or have no next of kin.
No other information has been released.
Stay with Eyewitness News for more details.