Irwinville VFD charged with arson - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Irwinville VFD charged with arson

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March 4, 2008

Irwinville-  Six South Georgia firefighters are charged with arson for setting several fires.

All five firemen at the Irwinville Volunteer Fire department and their chief are charged with torching houses, cars, and setting brush fires. The most amazing part, investigators say they did it so they could rush to the fires in their new fire truck.

Word spread like wildfire through Irwinville that the entire six man volunteer fire department was arrested.

"It's in a way shocking, a but in a way it's not," said Stacy Cleveland, Irwin County resident.

"It just surprises me I guess. I wasn't expecting nothing like that to happen," said Ed Collins, Irwinville resident.

The fires started in April of last year.

"It actually stared out with some of the grass fires on Crystal Lake, every other day we were responding and the Irwinville fire department was getting called out every other day to grass fires at Crystal Lake," said Sgt. Tammy Champion, Irwin County Sheriff's Office.

It got gutsier when they used an oil gas mixture to set a now demolished vacant home at the corner of Big Creek and Eisenhower Roads. They also asked permission to use this vacant home at 926 Fillmore Road for practice, but when the owner refused, they set it on fire anyway two weeks ago Saturday. They got caught when investigators realized it was volunteer fire fighters calling 911.

"Tracking it back and pulling the 911 tapes, a couple of volunteer firemen have called on several different fires," said Champion.

Why would firefighters intentionally set fires?

"Two guys actually admitted they called it in, after they set the fire and hurried back as fast as they could to the station so they could ride on the truck to go put it out. So, excitement, new truck," said Champion.

If they hadn't been stopped, both residents and investigators wonder what might have been next?

"I'm worried that they're going to find more corruption like the law enforcement and that it's going to stem into bigger and higher places," said Cleveland.

For now, volunteer fire fighters seven miles away in Waterloo will protect the residents of Irwinville.

A total of eight people are charged in this case. They are, Fire Chief Rusty Thomas, Firefighter Eric Cowart, Firefighter Roy Brown, Firefighter Justin McCurdy, Firefighter Daniel Spires, Firefighter Joe Maye.

Fire Chief Rusty Thomas' ex-girlfriend Sandy Mobley is charged with one count of party to a crime because she was there as fire fighters planned to set one of the fires and then rode with them to the fire in the truck.

Kevin Burton is not a fire fighter, but was with a fire fighter when they set the vehicle fire on Crystal Lake Road.

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