An ousted Houston-area firefighter has been named the prime suspect in the latest wildfire to race through George Bush Park in west Houston, Local 2 Investigates reported Friday.
Lonnie Ray Henderson, 28, of Katy, was jailed on a felony charge of impersonating a public servant after Harris County deputies and neighbors said they spotted him posing as a firefighter as a fire flared up in the park Friday morning.
One deputy involved in his arrest said Henderson was "playing hero" by guiding fire trucks in to the latest fire and using a radio to speak directly to Houston Fire Department dispatchers.
HFD arson squad investigators told Local 2 Investigates that the helmet and gloves being worn by Henderson this morning belonged to HFD. They had been reported missing in the past.
Henderson left the West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department less than one year ago.
District Chief Stephen Hayes said, "He was asked to leave," but declined to elaborate.
Hayes also said, "He was not working as a West I-10 Fire Department (firefighter) in any shape or means" during any of the recent wildfires.
HFD Arson Squad investigators told Local 2 Investigates that Henderson dropped his firefighting coat off the back of his four-wheel all-terrain-vehicle a short distance from where Friday morning's fire was set.
He admitted the jacket was his, but, investigators said, he did not admit any involvement in setting any of the recent fires.
One HFD investigator said all of Henderson's past firefighting jobs are under the microscope as they try to find any other arsons that cropped up as he served on other fire departments.
He was questioned for several hours Friday morning before charges were filed, but investigators said they did not have enough evidence yet to file felony arson charges.
Henderson just finished probation in May for a 2008 drunk driving case for which he pleaded guilty in exchange for deferred adjudication probation.
He also served 30 days in the county jail for a July 2010 drunken driving arrest.
Deputies said Henderson initially claimed that a suspicious Hispanic male on a bicycle had been spotted near the spot where Friday morning's fire was set.
However, one deputy said that moments after Henderson said the bicyclist had been seen, the entire area was searched and no bicyclist was found. There was only one way to exit the wooded area, according to deputies, so Henderson's story started falling apart at that point, said the deputy.
Investigators: Ex-Fireman Dropped Key Evidence In Wildfire Arson
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