12-03-1999, 06:30 PM #1Truck 2Firehouse.com Guest
Firefighters charged with or convicted of arson?
I'm starting a data base on this subject! If anyone can help me out with information in their area or dept. I sure would appreciate it! I know its a subject that we don't like to talk about but I'm afraid its much more prevelent than many of us want to think about. You can e-mail then info. if you don't want to post in a reply on this page. Thanks for any help you can give me.
Lt.Charles M. Huber
12-03-1999, 10:00 PM #2Hammerhead338Firehouse.com Guest
I only know of one person who was charged with setting a fire. The person was a ff with a local dept, he was removed from the dept. I dont remeber what the out come was but I remeber that it went to court. About a year later he was with another fire dept.
Have a good day and be safe.
12-13-1999, 10:49 PM #3George Wendt, CFIFirehouse.com Guest
Lt. Huber, I applaud you for your interest in this subject. As a law enforcement fire investigator, I have been involved way too many times in this type of investigation. I have been employed in my present position for 13 years, as a full-time fire investigator in a suburban county in Northern NJ. In those 13 years, we have arrested over 30 volunteers for the crime of arson. Many of these had multiple fires charged to them. We have a 100% guilty rate, as none of these persons ever took a case to trial.
This is a huge problem in the volunteer fire service. It effects every type of department, in every type of area. The after effects can tear a department to shreds. If you do not believe that this is a problem, I would respectfully suggest that you have your head in the sand.
I, through my experience, can see that in most cases, this type of behavior is somewhat predictable. There has been limited research on the subject. Tim Huff, a Violent Crime Analyst at the FBI National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime completed a research project on this subject several years ago, in conjunction with the IAFC. His conclusion is the same as mine. With mandatory psychological screening, the vast majority of these people can be weeded out before they hurt someone.
The fire service in many places has been reluctant to address this issue. In some places, the incidents have been swept under the rug to avoid embarassment to the department. Many departments enjoy the action and the notoriety in being busy. In fact, one old-timer told me directly, in all honesty, that in the "old days", you had to go out and set a good fire before you were allowed to join the department!
Some jurisdictions have met the problem head-on. Delaware has incorporated a segment in Fire Fighter Arson Prevention into their FF I class. The Nassau County (NY) Fire Marshal's Office prepared a five minute video tape for the county's departments to let the FF kow that if they set a fire, they will be caught and they will be punished.
Until this problem recieves widespread attention, we will continue to see nightmares such as the recent arrest of the Bucks County PA FF for 10 arsons in his town. For further info, I would check the LRC at the NFA. They provided material for me, as I am in the process of preparing a training program and article on this subject.
George Wendt, CFI
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