NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Forestry officials say they are looking for an arsonist responsible for nearly 50 brush fires in three weeks.

They’ve put out an ‘arson alert’ and are posting signs asking for information leading to an arrest.

The brush fires are small, but the damage they can cause is huge.

One fire overnight started in a wooded area along Interstate 75, and that concerns Patrick Mahoney, a forestry official for the Myakka District.

“It’s so close to the interstate. If the wind were blowing in a different direction, we would have to shut the interstate down,” said Mahoney.

It’s one of six fires that popped up overnight inside a mile off Orlando Boulevard close to Hugo Rodriguez’s home.

“I saw the fire close to my house. That should be started by someone, not created by itself,” said Rodriguez.

Forestry officials say small fires off the side of the road started popping up in north Charlotte County around Jan. 20 and have moved north into Sarasota County.

Mahoney said, “Thirteen on Sunday, five yesterday and one this morning … they were suspicious in nature. That’s why we’re putting up arson signs.”

That’s 19 suspicious brush fires in a few days, but there’ve been a lot more. Forestry officials say of the 53 brush fires in the five-county Myakka district this year, 48 appear to be arson.

Compare those numbers to an average year like last year. In 2017 there were 11 fires and 2 were arson.

Forestry officials say the kind of person who sets these fires likes the attention, the lights and sirens and the smoke.

“Hopefully we can find the person who’s doing this and shut them down before someone is hurt or killed,” said Mahoney.

While North Port police patrol the area, homeowners say they’ll keep an eye out too.

Rodriguez said, “We will be more watchful. Go outside see suspicious activity report it to police ... it’s unacceptable.”

Forestry officials say a couple of homeowners have spotted a red car with two people inside close to where the fires have started.

Information in this case could earn you a $5,000 reward. Call the Florida Division of Forestry at 1-800-342-5869 and you can remain anonymous.