Accused VA fire engine thief impersonated a public safety official earlier this year

Nolan Cornell had been a volunteer firefighter and has a series of arrests since last December

STATter911 has learned the man charged with stealing a Fairfax County, Virginia fire engine yesterday (Monday) impersonated public safety personnel in January and was arrested multiple times over the past year. Nolan Cornell, 24, had also briefly been a volunteer firefighter at two fire companies in Virginia.

Police in the Town of Luray arrested Cornell when he drove by the scene where Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department Engine 421 was recovered. The engine was discovered in Luray after being stolen from Atlantic Emergency Solutions about 60-miles away in Prince William County. The engine, a 2012 Pierce Velocity from the Fair Oaks fire station, was at Atlantic for maintenance. A law enforcement bulletin about the stolen fire engine said the theft occurred around 1:00 am Monday. According to news reports, the engine was driven through a chain link fence at Atlantic.

Reporter Sierra Fox of WTTG-TV/FOX 5 showed video of Engine 421 being driven back into Atlantic Emergency Solutions yesterday afternoon.

Court records in Spotsylvania County show that Cornell pleaded guilty to impersonating public safety personnel over an incident that occurred on January 21. Details of that arrest were not available online. Cornell, who lives in Spotsylvania, was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

In addition to the impersonation case and his arrest yesterday, Cornell faces at least 10 other criminal charges over the last year in three different Virginia courts.  The charges include auto theft, possessing stolen property and destruction of property.

STATter911 has confirmed that Cornell had briefly been a volunteer firefighter at Lake of the Woods Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company in Orange County. The fire company says he was terminated in April 2016.

Cornell’s Facebook page says he is a firefighter at Chancellor Volunteer Fire and Rescue in Spotsylvania County. He has also posted numerous pictures and videos from Chancellor since July of 2016. Spotsylvania Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management Deputy Chief Jason Irby tells STATter911, “Nolan Cornell was a member of Chancellor Volunteer Fire and Rescue (CVFR) from January-July 2017 until his membership was terminated by Chancellor.”

Chancellor Volunteer Fire and Rescue discontinued operations in July of this year. Former president Steve Dove tells STATter911 that the department again had contact with Cornell two-years-ago.. According to Dove, Cornell attempted to buy the department’s SUV known as “Safety 5”. The 2008 Ford Expedition was posted for sale in August of 2019. Dove says Cornell was eager to buy the vehicle but insisted that its emergency markings remain on the SUV. Dove saw that as a “big red flag” and refused to sell “Safety 5” to Cornell.

In July and August of 2017 Cornell used his Facebook page to promote and raise money for an organization called the “Forest Volunteer Fire Academy”. In one video he showed an engine from Chancellor along with a rig he described as “forest fire academy old engine 6”. Cornell, then just 20-years-old, wrote, “to request a ride along on the old engine or if you’re interested in joining contact chief Cornell … “. The old fire engine in the video has markings that say “District No. 2 Kentwood”. In a comment below the video a person asks, “OMG are you a chief now?”  Cornell replies, “I’m a chief for my academy.”

Page Valley News reports Cornell was being held without bond at the Page County Jail. Cornell’s phone went directly to voicemail and is not accepting messages.

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