Gulfport family moves forward in arson aftermath

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport firefighters are investigating an overnight fire that torched three homes, several vehicles and nearly killed seven people, most of whom were children.

The fire started around 11pm Thursday night on 20th Street, near 15th Avenue, but investigators say this fire was no accident.

Aritha Mills has been living in her Gulfport home for more than 20 years. Now, it has been reduced to almost nothing.

"Now I'm back at the start," Mills said. "It's school time and I'm just about to go crazy."

The fire destroyed one home and heavily damaged two others, while also leaving two cars and one truck charred. Mills said she's glad to be alive, but surviving the blaze wasn't easy.

"I have an elderly uncle that's, like, 69 that lives in my house. And my daughter was trying to get him out of the front while I go tried to get the kids out of the back, because I had several kids spending the night."

Mills said last week her sister also suffered at the hand of an arsonist. She said the thought of the incidents being linked saddens her even more.

"It makes me feel real bad, because there were children at home. They weren't ours. So we were just searching around trying to find all the kids, making sure everybody was safe," said Mill's sister, Vassie Burton.

Residents in the area say this arson attack is not the first of its kind, but one thing is for sure: They are sick of it.

"It's kind of like a starting over process. And I hope that they find out who the arsonist was or that the child can identify whoever set the fire, because she was in the kitchen window. And to me, it's just nonsense," Mills said.

"This is a very serious crime and the Gulfport Fire Department and the Gulfport Police Department are working together to try to get to the bottom of this crime," said Fire Chief Michael Beyerstedt.

If you have any information that could help investigators, call Crime Stoppers at 1-877-787-5898. You can also leave a tip online at

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