1. #1
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    Default The Ultimate Betrayal

    It seems more and more that we are hearing about fire setters that are members of fire departments. Everytime I see one of these stories on the local news, it sickens me. So many of us work so hard to build good rapport with the public, only to have these individuals damage the reputation of the fire service.

    What can we do to reverse this trend?

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    Without prying into someones personal life, not a whole lot. If we ( Im a Captain in a large County) as supervisors try to be a little more involved with our newer members, maybe we will pick up on it more. Im just as guilty as the next guy........

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    One thing we do is watch the talk around the station. If we have new members that "over-anticipate" their next run, we try to address it. Things like "I hope we get tripped for a ........" or "We could use a good structure tonight." I say, "What if it's your house?" It's a small statement, but it helps set a good example.

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    You really hit on a good point "500". All too often the talk around the station is how "we haven't had a good fire for some time".

    What is a "good fire"? I always thought a good fire was one in the heater, boiler, fire place, stove or anywhere productive.

    Also, isn't our main job/function fire prevention & public education? When we don't have calls it means we're doing our job, doesn't it?

    I'm sure that all that talk can contribute some to the problem but there has to be some underlying problem that we can't see in our screening processes. Short of lighting a match in front of them to see if they cream their pants I don't know of anyway to find out. A psychological test can always be lied through if one really wants to.
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    I think we all know what a "GOOD FIRE" is. It's what we have trained for. While we don't wish it upon anyone, we do hope when the enevitable fire does come in, we are working/available for it.

    If there is a .0001% out there who would start a fire for the thrill of fighting it, it is up to the department involved to see that this person is prosecuted to the fullest extent and let the public know it is involved.

    Sometimes it's hard not to be judged by the acts of a member in your ranks.

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    Post a matter of perspective

    Stay Back 500Ft

    I can only speak for myself but as a member of the public and as someone who has always has and always will have respect and admiration for the Fire Service, I would like to offer my brief thoughts if I may

    [COLOR=red]When I look at the fire service I see the the 343 men of the FDNY who gave their lives so many could live. I see the men and women in the FDNY that are still out there serving and protecting even while they struggle to come to terms with their grief. I see the men and women who 24/7/365 are always a phone call away from helping me should I ever need it. These are the people who make the Fire Service the honorable profession it is. There are bad apples everywhere. It is all a matter of perspective and what you choose to look at. I do not let the actions of a few overshadow the good of so many.


    Take care stay safe



    I will always remember the FDNY in my heart, my thoughts and prayers.

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    It's utter nonsense that we "can't do much". Paid FF and cops all have to submit to either a full psych exam or a polygraph. Someone please explain (as no one has been able to do in the past) why this can't be done for Vol. FF? As far as your personal life, if you don't want someone "prying into it" don't join the FD.

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    Paid FF and cops all have to submit to either a full psych exam or a polygraph.
    Incorrect statement. "All" indicates every jurisdiction in the country. That is simply not the case.

    Someone please explain (as no one has been able to do in the past) why this can't be done for Vol. FF?
    Perhaps you could attempt to do so. Have you not been a volunteer for some time?

    As far as your personal life, if you don't want someone "prying into it" don't join the FD.
    Or a prosecutors office. Perhaps you could share with us your social security number.

    It is not that I disagree with your premise, but rather in the inefectual way that you state it. You seem to imply NO ONE can offer a solution or has in the past. Lets hear yours and maybe the rest of us will jump on board.

    My best to your brothers in Newark.

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    To quote George CFI - "Paid FF and cops all have to submit to either a full psych exam or a polygraph."

    And that means they are all Ok and there aren't problems with them?


    I think we are kidding ourselves if we believe that would solve anything.

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    Background checks and psych tests would help, but not totally do away with all the "bad apples". I do believe George make a valid point. More could be done.

    My department is as guilty as anyone on this matter. Our background check involves a few informal questions to people that know a potential member. There is talk of instituting a background check for new applicants (along with a medical physical, but that's another thread), but that won't help weed out people with POTENTIAL problems.
    Bryan Beall
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    Unhappy A real sticky question

    Should more be done to weed out undesirables? Of course.
    What should we do? I don't know.

    We have a hard time getting vols on my dept,and we really try to be as selective as possible. For us to pay for the physc evals for anyone who wants to join would soon have us in a bad financial position. I like the idea, but I would venture to say that most vol depts can't afford it.

    By the same token we can't afford the black eye it gives the fire service every time one of these mental defectives starts a fire.

    I would at least think that a background check done by the local PD could be done at no or little cost to the FD. It won't do much good for phsycological problems, but you could see if they have a record of arson or violent crime.
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    I don't want to mention the department but there is an embarassing case that involves FF's that went through a polygraph, Psych Profile, and an extensive background check. Now they have brought...well to put it short they had done some things in the past and 2 did something while employed. So the notion that it is the only solution is ridiculous.

    I support background checks, Psych profile, and or a polygraph. However, just as in any profession, people slip through. We could talk for hours about the numbers of law enforcement that are bad or have gone bad. When my uncle retired from Monmouth County Prosecutors office where he was a detective for John Kaye, he had seen enough bad cops in towns and cities to last him a lifetime.

    Proactive action is needed but we must also realize that some will slip through. Those that do, and perform a criminal act, should be dealt with swiftly.

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    In NY, it is now law that anyone wishing to join a volunteer fire company, or transfer to another company be investigated by the police (sheriff's department in my case) for arson convictions or arrests. It's not perfect, but it's a atart.
    Glenn Ralston, FF/EMT-D
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    Bayridge

    It's not perfect, but it's a start.
    And a good one Bay Ridge! While we will have people harping "do more, do more" a journey starts with a single step. Your department is way ahead of many. Stay safe brother!

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    Very good topic, and very good responses by all. You have all made valid points about weeding out the bad apples, so to speak. There is no foolproof method of doing that, sad to say.
    It takes a very observant person or persons, in your department, to see the unusual behaviour of those around you. Just the statement of "We haven't had a good ripper in a while." is not enough to label that person as a fire bug. If you listened to that alone, a lot of firefighters would stand accused as fire bugs. I have hung around our station and listened to the talk that is bandied around, and have heard the the above quote. And not once did any of the guys on the department start a fire. (That I know of, and we are a small town) You are a tight knit group, and when a newbie comes in, I would assume (and please correct me if I am wrong) that you would be naturally suspicious of him/her, until they proved themselves to you. Of course in the bigger departments, that may be a little more difficult, but, you still have to work together. All in all, the background checks, the psycological checks, etc., are a good thing, and should be done, but, in the end, listen to your gut feelings. You have all been in the fire service for what I believe (at least from what I've read here) for a number of years, and you know and trust your members. If you suspect that one of your own is displaying behaviour that you are uncomfortable with, report it immeadiatly. If you suddenly have an increase in fires, report it immeadiatly, especially if you suspect one of your own doing it. But, don't just rely on the statement that you haven't had a good ripper in a while, then it becomes a witch hunt.

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    One of the things that is being ignored here is that we are dealing with people. People will be attracted to a field in which they find what they want out of life.

    Youth organizations have a very hard time weeding out child molesters because they are frequently the best leaders. In spite of their best efforts, the Boy Scouts, YMCA and church youth organizations find new ones every year.

    Financial organizations have a hard time with those that embezzle because they are frequently the most reliable, trustworthy, long-term members of the staff. No one wants to believe that Old Joe could have taken the missing loot.

    Fire organizations have to deal with fire setters. It's not a volunteer issue. Approximately 90% of the FF in the USA are volunteers, it's to be expected that 90% of the nuts are also volunteers.

    Many of the steps previously mentioned are good ideas. Let's be real though and understand that many of the nuts that will do this do not have a record until they are caught.
    Remember, it IS as bad as you think and they ARE out to get you!

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    Cyra6182:

    Please know that I don't consider individuals that speak of fires as firebugs (not looking to go on a witch hunt). My point is that frequent talk of the upcoming "Big One" could cause the big one to happen at the hands of the wrong listening ears. You raise good points though.

    Jim M.:

    I agree. What are your (or anyone's) thoughts on stiffening punishments?




    Bottom line: This is a problem that should be addressed on a national level by the leaders in our field. Give us training on the subject...this issue is just as important as R.I.T., Haz-Mat or structural firefighting, in my opinion. Just as the Catholic church is being forced to deal with internal issues (as they should), we should do whatever it takes to stop this plague that darkens our image. If we don't act to police our own, the media will see to it that we are forced to.
    May we never forget our fallen, worldwide.

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    Default RE: The Ultimate Betrayal

    http://www.dos.state.ny.us/fire/1999legis.html

    In New York, A law has been passed to have new Fire Department Applicants' checked for Arson Convictions. (See Above Link).
    I'm fairly certain other States have this also, and if not are thinking about this sort of Legislation.
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    Before I begin to speak again on this subject, let me state two things. One, I have been a volunteer fire fighter for 26 years. SEcondly, during my 16 year stint as a full-time fire investigator for a law enforcement agency, my agency has have arrested 38 volunteer fire fighters for arson. I got number 38 today. I believe that my background in this area will allow me to speak with authority.

    First, it would be naive to think that criminal history checks, psych tests and polygraph tests could weed out every potential arsonist. But I can tell you this...there is an absolute psychological profile to fire fighters who have a propensity for firesetting. If you want more info on this subject, get a copy of a research paper that was published several years ago by Tim Huff, a criinal profiler with the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. The paper was published in the IAFC publication. I now the LRC at the NFA has it. He very clearly puts forht the profile of these guys. I can tell you that I have locked up male and female, black and white and old and young fire fighters for arson. The psych profile fits to a tee. Of course it won't be 100% effective, but it is better than the masterful job that most VFD do of doing nothing.

    Show of hands...how many people believe that a fire fighter begins to set fires when he joins the FD? If you do, your dreaming. That is why a polygrpah exam would also work in assisting us in weeding these morons out. In NJ, polygraphs are illegal for pre-employment purposes, but I am certain they work in other jurisdictions.

    I am not certain that therre is a connection to fire fighter arsonists and bad cops. Bad cops are plain unadulterated criminals. Fire fighter arsonists are usually head cases that commit criminal behavior.

    The real question is why does this problem continue to exist? My attitude is that it is because the vol. fire service refuses to do anyhting about it. There are departments that I have encountered that actually enjoy the work when they have had an arsonist running around and didn't want it to stop. I am also familiar with a department who, up until a few years ago, unofficially required a new member to set a fire before he could be considered for full membership.

    What do any of the major fire organizations do about this problem? Nothing. My correspondence to the IAFC went unanswered. I am under the impression that the State of Pennsylvania has considered this issue so serious that it hs formed a blue ribbon panel to study the problem. The state of Delaware has included a lesson on this problem in their FFI class. The IAFC produced a short video on this problem several years ago. But these are all small efforts. There is no national approach to the problem.

    And Fric, I don't know who you are (or care to know) but I am sure that you would agree that there is a major difference to submitting information on an official application in order to have a background check completed than to give a SS number to some moron on the Internet.

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    From the Morristown Daily Record 04/11/2002

    Fireman charged with setting fire in Florham Park

    By Darran A. Simon, Daily Record

    FLORHAM PARK ó A volunteer assistant fire chief was charged Tuesday with setting a small fire in the insurance company where he worked, police said Wednesday.

    Mark Toscano of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department in Warren County was charged Tuesday afternoon after he allegedly set a fire that morning in a second-floor file room at the One Beacon Insurance Co., said Sgt. Jeffrey Paul, a spokesperson with the Morris County Prosecutorís Office.

    There was moderate damage to the file room, and no one was injured, Paul said. Toscano voluntarily came to the Florham Park Police Department for an interview at the request of police. He was arrested at the department around 3:30 p.m., Paul said.

    The fire was reported within 10 minutes of being set, Paul said.

    An employee quickly extinguished the fire with a hand-held fire extinguisher, police and fire officials said.

    Officials would not comment on a motive or how the fire was started.

    Toscano, an Oxford resident, is employed as a senior underwriter in the Boston-based companyís metro regional office on 83 Hanover Road. Company officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

    Toscano, 39, was released Tuesday on $10,000 bail set by Florham Park Municipal Court Judge Lawrence Willner, under the condition that he have no contact with the insurance company.

    "No comment whatsoever," Toscano said when reached at his home Wednesday night.

    A joint investigation by the Morris County Prosecutorís Office Arson Unit and the Florham Park Police Department resulted in Toscanoís arrest, said Joseph Devine, chief of investigations for the Morris County Prosecutor's Office. "The fire was determined to have been incendiary in nature," Devine said.

    Another insurance company employee reported the fire around 8:45 a.m., Paul said.

    Dale Bulmer, chief of the 25-member Oxford Volunteer Fire Department, said Wednesday night that Toscano took a leave of absence from the unit for personal reasons last week. Toscano, the volunteer departmentís only assistant chief, has been a member for five to six years. He was elected as assistant fire chief two years ago, Bulmer said.

    Bulmer declined to offer any additional comment.

    Alban Kellogg, Florham Park deputy fire chief and town fire inspector, was at the scene three to four minutes after the call came in and reported a smoke condition, said Florham Park fire Chief Robert Young. Five minutes after Kellogg arrived, the first engine was on the scene

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    Default Hello George

    It is good to see your post George.


    A few comments.

    One, I have been a volunteer fire fighter for 26 years. SEcondly, during my 16 year stint as a full-time fire investigator for a law enforcement agency, my agency has have arrested 38 volunteer fire fighters for arson. I got number 38 today. I believe that my background in this area will allow me to speak with authority.
    I believe it does as well. Though even "authorities" are often wrong.

    But I can tell you this...there is an absolute psychological profile to fire fighters who have a propensity for firesetting.
    I would agree with the caveat that there are exceptions to every rule.



    The psych profile fits to a tee. Of course it won't be 100% effective, but it is better than the masterful job that most VFD do of doing nothing.
    Most implies a great number and since we are each limited to our certain environments and perhaps those of a few others, I would prefer to say "it is better than departments in my experience".



    That is why a polygrpah exam would also work in assisting us in weeding these morons out. In NJ, polygraphs are illegal for pre-employment purposes, but I am certain they work in other jurisdictions.
    Agreement. Though some will argue the effectiveness of a polygraph I come down on your side on this.



    The real question is why does this problem continue to exist? My attitude is that it is because the vol. fire service refuses to do anyhting about it.
    I would also add that in some areas there is no investigation or prosecution of arsonists. Here in my city we now have a malcontent with the brains of a dimwitted ox setting fires. Now the local authorities are searching for this idiot before he kills someone. In my experience in my area there has been little to no prosecution of those with a propensity to set fires. Hopefully the capture of this nitwit will inspire more investigations and fervent prosecution.




    And Fric, I don't know who you are (or care to know) but I am sure that you would agree that there is a major difference to submitting information on an official application in order to have a background check completed than to give a SS number to some moron on the Internet.

    It was said in jest.

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    Angry

    For years there have been firefighters setting fires for a variety of reasons. Departments that pay per call have had "firefighters" (and I use the term reluctantly) set fires for financial gain, volunteers and career alike have set fires just for the sheer pleasure of doing it. They aren't firefighters. They aren't brothers and sisters. They are common criminals, plain and simple. They deserve no quarter.

    Checking for arson convictions is a good start, but the fire service and law enforcement has many, many times forgone prosecution in the interest of preventing the "bad publicity" that comes from finding one of their own setting fires. Someone asked about stiffening the penalties for "firefighter arson". Let's face facts. These people are placed in a position of public trust. If a firefighter is found to have set fires for whatever reason, they should automatically receive the maximum penalty. There is no excuse for this behavior...none!

    This is a problem across the United States. It's not regional, but we need to aggressively take care of our home areas. There were 2 firefighters (late teens or early twenties)in Central Ohio, just recently charged with setting a series of barn fires. I guess they saw the barns as a less incidious fire since it wasn't an occupied structure. What about the people at risk responding to the stations, and the public that was on the street avoiding the emergency vehicles. Not to mention the people denied service due to these set fires. We haven't even addressed the loss to the property owners. It appears they set the fires for extra pocket money, as their department was pay-per-call.

    Outside of a few isolated studies conducted here and there, this is an issue that has been largely ignored. Perhaps the time has come for an agency such as the USFA or Dept. of Justice to collect valid data that can actually reflect the true extent of this problem. Much of what is out there is based on urban legend, and not hard data. It seems that I read about this issue with greater frequency all of the time. Is it that it is increasing in frequency, or is it that we are becoming more aggressive in the prosecution of these individuals? Hopefully, it's the latter.
    Last edited by Steamer; 04-11-2002 at 10:10 AM.
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    Stay back-- It's unfortunate that so many are unaware of the problem. As a respected research journalist, I can offer some troubling insight into this topic. During 2000-01, our organization researched this very topic and found that an alarming 90% of all firefighters have given thought to, made comments regarding, or actually considered starting a fire. I and my colleagues find it disturbing that so many of our "heroes" could conceive such a dangerous act, a criminal act. In light of our research, might I suggest psychological profiling of individual applicants to the firefighting profession, including at the volunteer level? Of course, this should be subsidized by state governments, or possibly at the federal level.

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    Fearless:

    90% seems a little high. While I agree those that intentionally set fires are criminals, I'm troubled by the quotation marks you have around the word "heroes". If you are simply refering to those that have been found guilty, great...but if you are refering to 90% of the firefighters in America then I take issue.


    ANYTHING we can do to stop these vermin is certainly welcomed, but to label virtually ALL of us as criminal is irresponsible and wrong. How was this research conducted? Where? By what organization?
    May we never forget our fallen, worldwide.

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    During 2000-01, our organization researched this very topic and found that an alarming 90% of all firefighters have given thought to, made comments regarding, or actually considered starting a fire.
    Could you provide the data via a weblink or journal text? Also what is the name of your org?


    I and my colleagues find it disturbing that so many of our "heroes" could conceive such a dangerous act, a criminal act.
    I smell bait.

    Of course, this should be subsidized by state governments, or possibly at the federal level.
    As I am sure your research was funded.

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