La. firefighter accused of arson in fire at abandoned building
The volunteer firefighter allegedly removed evidence while responding to the blaze
By Laura French
WEST CARROL PARISH, La. — A Louisiana volunteer firefighter has been arrested and charged with arson and obstruction of justice after allegedly setting fire to an abandoned building.
James Travis "JT" Simmons, 26, is accused of setting the blaze in the early morning hours of April 1 and then responding with the Epps Fire Department, according to the Louisiana state fire marshal's office. An investigation was prompted after firefighters reported seeing another firefighter possibly removing evidence from the scene.
An investigation found that Simmons initially reported the fire in a 911 call but gave the dispatcher a different name, according to the fire marshal's office release. In an interview with investigators, Simmons allegedly changed his story multiple times before admitting to setting the fire and removing evidence.
Simmons said he was passing by the structure and "thought the building needed to burn," investigators reported.
Simmons was arrested on Friday, April 3. Officials said the building was vacant at the time of the blaze and that the damage caused by the fire was minor.
“It’s never okay for someone to intentionally set a fire, but for a firefighter to do it, especially during this sensitive time of uncertainty surrounding the health of our communities, this was an especially egregious act,” said State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning. “We want to thank the Epps Fire and Police Departments for their partnership in this case. It’s not easy seeing someone that stands alongside you to protect your community being held accountable for doing something to harm it.”