There is now a lot more detail about the five on-call firefighters accused of starting fires in three vacant homes in the Massachusetts towns of Brimfield and Holland. It probably won’t surprise anyone familiar with the issue of firefighter arson that these were young men who said they set the fires because they were bored. They weren’t seeing enough action, except the EMS calls that really didn’t interest them.
In this case there is also the issue of greed. They were on-call firefighters who needed the money from the fire responses. The firefighters charged are Patrick K. Elliott, 19, a call firefighter with the Brimfield Fire Department, Brian S. Findlay, 18, a call firefighter with the Brimfield and Holland fire departments, Jordan R. Frank, 18, a call firefighter with the Brimfield Fire Department, Dylan J. Lajeunesse, 18,a call firefighter with the Holland Fire Department and Donald C. Moores, 20, a call firefighter with the Brimfield and Holland fire departments.
In an excellent article by Gerard F. Russell and Kim Ring at Telegram.com, the reporters go through the police report showing how the five firefighters set the fires and how they were caught. The story indicates investigators focused on the firefighters following a call to a tip line. The caller said one of the firefighters told a friend he and other firefighters had set the fires.
A couple of other interesting points from the excerpts below. The firefighters weren’t very good at starting fires, needing to go back and get gasoline in order to get two of the fires going.
Note the evidence the investigators now have thanks to the young firefighters texting each other with details about what they were doing. Not long before I became a volunteer in the 1970s a couple of firefighter arsonists were arrested from the company I joined. Of course there was no texting in those days. I was told what helped catch the pair was they were on an alternate fire department radio channel when one asked the other if they removed the gasoline can.
Here are some of the details from Massachusetts firefighter arson ring:
The police report detailed the men’s alleged activities leading up to each fire, which included text messages in which the men talked about their involvement in the fires. The police narrative details episodes of failed attempts to light fires with a mixture of oil and diesel fuel in plastic containers that was mixed at the Brimfield Fire Department by Mr. Elliott.
Some of the men allegedly hung out together at the Brimfield fire headquarters, became bored and rode around the town looking for abandoned homes to burn. Prior to one of the fires, Mr. Frank told police that Mr. Elliott “made a mixture of oil, and either gas, diesel or kerosene” and put it into a large antifreeze container. Mr. Elliott “had the container with the mixture between his legs in the front passenger seat.”
After pouring the mixture all over the garage door at the Chandler Road fire, Mr. Elliott tried lighting the accelerant but “it flashed and went down.” The men left and went back to the Brimfield fire station. Mr. Frank said Mr. Elliott “was freaking out because his prints were everywhere.” So the men drove back and the fire was smoldering. They then went to the home of one of the men to wait for the fire call tones that sound to alert firefighters to respond to fires.
After the first fire during the cleanup, Mr. Moores had asked Mr. Frank, of West Brookfield, how he arrived at the fire so fast. Mr. Frank said he was in the area with Mr. Elliott, Mr. Patrick and Mr. Findlay. In a police interview, Mr. Moores said he asked the men if they started the fire and they denied it.
“Moores stated he has known these guys a long time and he knew they were lying about the fire so he asked a second time and they all laughed and Elliott stated they did start it,” the report said.
Hours before the second fire on Washington Road, Mr. Elliott allegedly telephoned Mr. Moores, who was visiting another firefighter in town. Mr. Moores was preparing to go home Mr. Elliott told him to “just stay in town.”
Mr. Moores asked Mr. Elliott, “Why, are you going to start another fire?” Mr. Elliott did not answer the question. Just before midnight, Mr. Moores spotted Mr. Elliott, Mr. Frank and Mr. Findlay at Cumberland Farms, and Mr. Moores again asked Mr. Elliott why he should stay in town. Mr. Elliott responded, “You know why.”
All of the men then drove to the Brimfield fire station, where an accelerant was mixed inside the bay where the ambulance and forestry trucks were parked.
Mr. Moores told police that before the third fire, in Holland, he received a text message to meet Mr. Elliott, Mr. Findlay, Mr. Frank and Mr. Lajeunesse to start another fire.
As in a previous fire, the men had trouble getting the fire going. Around 1:30 a.m., Mr. Findlay got a text message saying the fire did not light.
As a result, Mr. Elliott and Mr. Frank returned to the fire department to get more gasoline and then went back to the Chandler Road home to relight it.
The police report said it was Mr. Elliott and Mr. Findlay who were bored and wanted to start the fires. In his interview with police, Mr. Lajeunesse said that “the reason for the fires was to look cool and go to fires.”
He added, “They didn’t want to go to medicals — as it is not what they look forward to. Lajeunesse stated that he joined the department to fight fires.”