W.Va. Firefighter Accused of Pa. Arson Fires


Douglas Howard Gauger, 21, of Coal City, was being held Thursday at Southern Regional Jail awaiting extradition after an ongoing investigation by Pennsylvania authorities, the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department, the West Virginia state fire marshal’s office and Sophia Police Department, according to Sophia City Fire Chief Jeffrey Pittman.

Gauger, who had been with the Sophia department since June, was arrested Tuesday as a fugitive of justice in order to be extradited to Montgomery County and Limerick Township, Pa., to face arson charges there.

Raleigh sheriff's Sgt. Larry Lilly was unable to comment on the specifics of the Pennsylvania offenses. Gauger was previously a member of a volunteer fire company in Pennsylvania, Lilly said, and had moved to West Virginia during the course of the investigation.

According to Pittman, the investigation had been under way for quite some time and Sophia City’s chief officers had been made aware of the probe and were asked to “keep an eye” on Gauger. They were also asked not to do anything that would tip Gauger off to the investigation.

Gauger applied with the Sophia City department in June, stating he was trained in firefighting and held a national pro-board certification in Pennsylvania, Pittman said. However, he was unable to produce paperwork confirming his claims and was therefore not allowed to participate as a trained firefighter.

Gauger was allowed to participate only under supervision on a probationary basis until proper paperwork could be provided or additional training was completed, Pittman said.

When Gauger applied, a background check was conducted by Sophia police, but it showed no prior history of criminal activity or outstanding National Crime Information Center warrants, Pittman said. He also stressed no other members of the Sophia City Fire Department are being investigated.

The West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office and the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department are currently investigating whether or not Gauger had any involvement in local arson reports.

Attempts to contact Pennsylvania authorities were unsuccessful.

Republished with permission of The Register-Herald.