Arson by volunteer firefighter - frequent in your country or not?

Today I read another regional news story (I’m in Germany) about a fireman laying a fire because he liked taking part in putting them out. Only this time six people died. Other firefighters noticed that his laying the hose indicated that the knew where the source of the fire was.

Which made me think: I seem to read about this kind fairly often. Only usually the culprit lays fire to barns, sheds and other buildings where the fire is less of a threat to human life. I imagine that arson investigators must suspect the responding volunteer firemen nowadays in the same way that they suspect the owner of a well insured building.

From what the papers write on such occasions it seems these people are usually guys whose only source of appreciation and cameraderie is their fire brigade work. (Background: The volunteer fire brigade is one of the most socially important organizations in most German villages and small towns. If you don’t sing, you don’t play soccer well and you aren’t keen on sport shooting it’s often the only village organization you can join. Also only about a fifth of cases where fire brigades are called out are fires nowadays - usually it’s things like pumping out flooded cellars (boring), cutting corpses out of car wrecks (nasty), clearing streets after a storm (low profile), etc, which means that there aren’t enough fires to meet these peoples’ expectations.)

Which makes me ask of Dopers in other countries: Does ‘arson by volunteer fireman’ also often crop up in your news?

Yes, we have them here, too. I’m in middle Tennessee. We had a rash of barn fires a couple of years ago that was eventually traced to a volunteer firefighter that had just joined the fire department. I think it is fairly common.

Wasn’t there a huge out-of-control wildfire in California a few years ago caused by a woman trying to impress her boyfriend? She was a volunteer firefighter, I think.

We had a very bad fire here in Colorado, USA begun by a woman firefighter who I think was having marital problems.
There have been other ones as well, but the smaller ones do not always get too much publicity, and sometimes arson can be difficult to prove.
I have heard that there can sometimes be a connection between firefighters and arson. I don’t know if it is because of excitement they seek, or perhaps attention, or both?

The brother-in-law of one of my employees was recently convicted of arson and has been ordered to pay $50,000 restitution to the family whose house he set fire to.
He had been a member of the volunteer fire department less than three weeks.

The chief of the fire department in our town told me is is common for new volunteer firefighters to set fires. They want the excitement or whatever.

This was in central Alabama.

There have been cases in Australia too. I understand that in some states, volunteer firefighters are now put through psychological screening.

There was a case in California of a non-volunteer fireman who set fires and then investigated them. Someone died because of one of his fires, and he’s been sent to prison for life.

Is that the case that was profiled in Reader’s Digest (I was at the doctor’s office and had already read every non-sailing magazine there - both of them)? That’s the case I thought of on reading the OP.

Firefighters and volunteers that I’ve conversed with are all fond of fire, no surprise there.

The Colorado fire mentioned by Caprese was started when a woman decided to burn tokens of her failed marriage. It got away from her and started a devestating forest fire. I do believe she’s facing jail time for it.

BTW, tschild, in American English, we say “set fire to,” not “lay fire to”. Otherwise, your English is impeccable. Wish I were that fluent in another language.

Wasn’t there a pretty big wildfire not too long ago that was set by a firefighter looking to get some overtime pay?

I’ve heard “laying a fire” (as in the OP) used in British English (not that common I think, never “lay fire to” something though) - so I guess his English is impeccable. (Or at least, better than mine!)

Yes. It’s quite common over here too. It seems that pathological arsonists are quite attracted to this job, which isn’t that surprising. I also remember a couple cases where the motivation was the extra pay the volunteers receive when they fight fires.

I believe so. There was also a documentary on either Discovery or TLC about the fires.

Happens in Japan, too.

Pyromaniacal firefighter admits to 20 cases of arson
Of course, what really caught my attention was the headline just below this one: “Finance Minister calls arson ‘girly,’ throat-cutting ‘manly’”

A good friend of mine, a volunteer firefighter, was hurt when another member of his company set fire to their own firehouse. The arsonist loser was sentenced to 30 to life, IIRC, because another firefighter had a massive heart attack and died while trying to prevent the fire from jumping to a neighboring apartment building.

I can see why firebugs are attracted to the job, but I wonder if there ought not be more stringent background checking, reference interviews and psychological interviews for those who apply, as a matter of precaution.

A few years ago, we had a new neighbor move in, he was a volunteer firefighter.

One night, a brush fire happend nearby, then a car caught on fire, after that it was a shed. All this happened within a few months.

The guy lived behind us and one night we saw him in his backyard burning a pile of leaves. He was all dressed up in his fire gear with this weird, glazzed look about him. The same evening, an abandoned house nearby lit up.

It was no shock to discover that he was the arsonist.

Your point is well taken, TeaElle. I’ve been fighting with my own department for over two years regarding background investigations. It won’t screen out everyone with a problem, but it’s a start. Others disagree. One additional hitch is that juvenile records (<16) are typically difficult/impossible to access, and those years are when firesetting behavior often takes root.