Chief Bryant Beddard and Justin Stargardt (listed in one article as assistant chief) of the Red Oak Community Rural Fire Department in Greenville, North Carolina were arrested and charged with shooting at electric power fixtures and setting fire to a wooded area last Thursday. The men are accused of knocking out two insultators on a transmission line, knocking loose a 115-kilovolt power line that started the fire. Power was lost for about a half-hour to 16,000 customers served by five substations in a fairly large area.
Chief Beddard has also been employed by Greenville Fire-Rescue since 2006.
Red Oak firefighters responded about 4:30 p.m. Thursday to a fire in a wooded area of the Frog Level community, according to Eddie Rabil, the department's board chairman. They discovered that two fixtures were shot and a power feeder line was cut, falling to the ground and sparking a fire, a Red Oak fire official said.
Rabil said the department, with an active 30-40 person roster, didn't know that Beddard and Stargardt were linked to the incident until charges were brought against them. Both men are thought of as responsible individuals, active in providing skilled fire-rescue and leadership to the community, he said.
Red Oak's web site says Stargardt is its assistant fire chief with 5 years experience, while Beddard has been with Red Oak for 9 years.
The fire department's board of directors chairman said in a statement that they are shocked and saddened with the arrests. Eddie Rabil says both men have taken voluntary leave of absences at Red Oak, while "we fully support our firefighters who have been charged in this incident."
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Chief Bryant Beddard on the left and Assistant Chief Justin Stargardt on the right.