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The lede of reporter Giuseppe Sabella’s story on West Virginia firefighter arson in the Charleston Gazette-Mail this weekend sure explains the problem:
A Morgan County volunteer firefighter messaged his co-worker in February: “Get ready for a house fire.”
That’s the modern Snap Chat version of an infamous story in Prince George’s County, Maryland where decades ago a pair of firefighter arsonists communicated on the fire department radio with one asking the other if he got the gas can.
As for the Morgan County case, the now former member of the Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Company, Alex Gloyd, is one of at least nine West Virginia firefighters charged with arson in about a decade.
Boredom is one of several reasons a firefighter might become a fire starter, said Mark Lambert, a retired investigator.
“It was always sort of like the cop that deals drugs — sort of taboo,” he said.
Lambert worked at the Office of the State Fire Marshal for 23 years. He now serves as director of the Extension Fire Service at West Virginia University.
He said job candidates are required to undergo more than 100 hours of training to become firefighters, and many are eager to put those skills to use.
A “hero complex” drives others to commit arson, he said. Some firefighters jeopardized lives just to save them.