10-15-2009, 08:00 AM #1
- Join Date
- Aug 2009
- SF Bay Area
Arsonists want to be heroes, 30 accused this yr. in W. Virginia
I dont know much about W. Virginia, thought this was a high number. I am curious what the average is each year.
Arsonists Want to Be 'Heroes': This Year, at Least 30 Firefighters Are Accused of Deliberately Setting Fires
By Ry Rivard, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.
Oct. 14--CHARLESTON, W.Va.--At least 30 West Virginia firefighters have been arrested this year for starting fires, including fires they have later returned to fight, state Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis said.
National experts say the arsonist firefighters start blazes for a variety of reasons but often because they want to seek excitement and be heroes. Some are also suspected of receiving money or drugs in exchange for starting fires.
Lewis said the same reasons have come up repeatedly during police interviews with the "over 30" firefighters who have been arrested this year and are awaiting trial for arson. A precise number is not yet known. Most, but not all, of the arsonist firefighters are men.
"We get a lot of, 'We were bored,'" Lewis said.
In almost all cases, the West Virginia arsonists return with their department to put out the very fire they started.
"Along with that, psychologists say these individuals who set these fires have a desire to be a hero," Lewis said. "They want to go out and set a fire and then return back. They want to be the first one on the scene. They want to be the person who would possibly have to save someone in the building."
In other cases, Lewis said the arsonists might stand to get a cut of fire insurance money or even drugs in exchange for starting a fire for someone.
In some instances, other firefighters often wind up helping protect arsonist firefighters from being caught.
"Some of the members of the fire departments are aware of who has set the fires," Lewis said.
He said other firefighters might not turn someone in because they don't want to get involved or because they feel like if they tell on their buddy they could suffer repercussions.
Lewis has recently taken aim at the problem, but it has been ongoing for quite some time. It didn't come to officials' attention in the past because firefighters were generally not suspected of starting fires.
"We have missed some firefighters because it was real hard years ago to look at a firefighter and think they were arsonists," Lewis said.
Still, the 30 suspected arsonists represent only a small number of the West Virginia's 10,000 firefighters.
"But if you arrest one for doing something that blatantly flies in the face of the job that they're doing, it's horrible," Lewis said.
Last year, the state's fire departments responded to 8,000 fires and 80,000 other incidents, including EMS calls and other emergencies.
Most state fires are labeled as accidents or acts of nature, though 45 percent of all the fires over the past year were the result of unknown causes. About 161, or 5 percent, of all state fires from summer 2008 to July 2009 were labeled incendiary or suspicious, according to a report from the state fire commission.
Lewis said the firefighters who set fires out of "boredom" aren't necessarily coming from departments that aren't already busy. Some are coming from departments that field 1,000 calls a year, while other arsonists are coming from departments that see as few as 25 calls in a year.
But some younger firefighters might not be around for the majority of their departments' calls. State data from last year showed fires occurred more often during the day.
For example, a volunteer firefighter who works or goes to school during the day and volunteers at night might hear from his fellow firefighters who were out fighting fires all day. Lewis said in the back of their minds, the arsonists might think they could go start a blaze "so I can get to fight a fire, too." Lewis said the suspects also say "it makes them feel good amongst their peers that they fought the fire and put the fire out."
So far, Lewis said there's been one known injury from firefighter arsons and it was to another firefighter. The injured firefighter has since recovered, Lewis said.
A 2003 report by the U.S. Fire Administration compiled separate profiles of arsonist firefighters put together by the South Carolina Forestry Commission and the FBI.
Both agencies found that the arsonists are most likely to be white males between 17 and 26 years old.
Though each profile differed slightly in other details, they suggest that arsonist firefighters:
--had harsh or unstable childhoods.
--have above average intelligence but did poorly in school.
--are in poor marriages or are living at home with parents.
--lack stable relationships.
--are employed in low-paying jobs.
The arsonists also are fascinated by fire or were interested in joining the department for excitement rather than public service.
The fire administration report also found that the firefighter arsonists were generally with their department for less than three years.
The arsonists "were eager to put their training to practical use" and to be seen as heroes by fellow fighters and the community.
But, being new to firefighting, the arsonists also "may not be experienced in the power of fire and its consequences."
The arsonists typically escalate their fires over time, first starting with nuisance fires in Dumpsters or brush. Then the firefighter arsonist moves to targets with more "damage potential," such as abandoned cars or unoccupied buildings. The extreme cases occur when firefighters start fires in occupied structures.
Lewis said he does not think most were arsonists before they joined the departments, but he said the fire departments need to better police themselves.
"If you entrust something, whether it would be a child or your property and/or your life, to an individual or group of individuals, you would like to go to sleep at night thinking they have your best interests at heart," Lewis said.
Contact writer Ry Rivard at ry.riv...@dailymail.com">firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1796.
To see more of the Charleston Daily Mail, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dailymail.com.
Copyright (c) 2009, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.
10-15-2009, 11:15 AM #2
Wow....what dopes. "Start a fire because you're bored" or "want to be a hero". Here's an idea....if you're so bored, ask the chief if you can go to a school to talk fire prevention with the kids or something along those lines.
10-15-2009, 11:22 AM #3
- Join Date
- Apr 2009
- Charlotte, NC
It seems like West Virginia is always getting a black eye in the media. I can tell you from having volunteered there that it's just like any other state, with the majority of departments committed to training (which the state does an excellent job 0f providing, especially considering how tight its finance are) and doing the job, and a small number of departments staffed with complete huckleberries.
10-15-2009, 12:42 PM #4
- Join Date
- Sep 2006
10-15-2009, 05:20 PM #5
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- Flanders, NJ
THIS IS A PROBLEM IN ALL 50 STATES! YOUR FD IS NOT IMMUNE FROM THIS PROBLEM! I DO NOT CARE IF YOU ARE CAREER OR VOLUNTEER, 10 FIRE FIGHTERS OR A 1000 FIRE FIGHTERS. YOU CAN BE NEXT!
We should be honoring WV as friggin' heroes! They had the guts to confront this problem and had the courage to aggressively pursue it. Then, they had the intellectual honesty to report it.
My admiration and respect for the fire investigators in WV just went through the roof.PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.
10-15-2009, 05:30 PM #6
Yeah, Texas had a vollie kid doing the same thing not too long ago, I believe in the Houston area. Stupid!!
10-15-2009, 05:40 PM #7
I used to "keep the scorecard" on the Firefighters and arson thread. Some people were just a tad ****ed off at me for doing it, as there were a large number of volunteers being nailed on that list.
The NVFC just put their heads in the sand and probably still have them there for all I know, refusing to recognize the problem that makes every firefighter in the country look bad.
I agree with George... A tip of the leather to West Virginia for confronting the problem and doing something about it!
Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 10-15-2009 at 11:58 PM."The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
10-15-2009, 10:05 PM #8
Long Island used to run (might still) a really good "scared straight" program that they showed to their firefighters.
http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pd...ons/tr-141.pdfI am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.
"The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."
"When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."
10-16-2009, 04:06 PM #9
George, your post is matched in wisdom only by font size.
Good work by the WV investigators. We are in the viewing area of several WV television stations, and I know from local news that there has been quite a bit of press on this issue. To me, that suggests that within the profile they highlighted, there could be some copycat action going on.“I am more than just a serious basketball fan. I am a life-long addict. I was addicted from birth, in fact, because I was born in Kentucky.”
― Hunter S. Thompson
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