Two Martins Ferry firefighters were among four people arrested on arson charges Thursday night.
Joshua Hillman, 20; Christian Abling, 20; Jason Bell, 25; all of Martins Ferry, were arrested for arson stemming from an Oct. 31 fire at 1150 Colerain Pike. Hillman and Bell were active members of the unit, and Abling is a former member of the department.
A juvenile also was arrested.
Martins Ferry Fire Chief Ed Duke said Friday that he had been told the men may have set the fire on Colerain Pike, prompting him to report it to the Martins Ferry Police Department.
"I knew before the police department, and we worked together on it," Duke said.
"Someone approached me and said these guys could have started the fire and I went to the police. They brought them in, and they pretty much caved in.
"Jason Bell was a member of the ladder company," Duke added.
"Hillman is a member of the load engine company. It was very much a surprise."
Duke said Abling was kicked out of the fire department quite some time ago, but he could not remember the reasons. He said Hillman and Bell have now been removed from the department.
"He (Abling) was no longer a member of the department," Duke said.
"He was tossed out. They will be instantly dropped. They will just be gone, and they never be allowed on the property again. We'll just have to look for new people, that's all."
Duke was very upset when he discussed the arrests and the fire that led to them. Duke said the firefighters who answered the call were put into a dangerous situation, and he said the arrests are damaging to the reputation of the department.
"I'm not very happy," Duke said. "They put a bunch of firemen's lives in jeopardy. There are lot of dedicated people in the department, and they kind of put a mark against us. Those guys put their lives in jeopardy every time the alarm rings. They could get killed on the way to a call. It doesn't just have to be in the structure."
The Martins Ferry Police Department is also investigating an armed robbery that occurred around 10:15 p.m. Thursday at the Jaycee Manor apartments. According to a report from the department, a black male knocked on the door of an apartment at the manor and forced his way in.
There were four occupants in the room and he took them into a back bedroom.
He reportedly took a strongbox from the room with an undetermined amount of cash. No one was injured.
The black man was wearing a black coat and ski mask. He has not been located.