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La. firefighter arrested after setting fire to firehouse

The Iowa Volunteer Fire Department station was vacant since being damaged by Hurricane Laura in 2020

By Stephen Marcantel
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

IOWA, La. — An Acadiana firefighter attempted to burn down the Iowa fire station Friday, according to the Louisiana State Fire Marshal.

Jamison Smith, 18, was arrested for simple arson the same day the Iowa Volunteer Fire Department’s station at 100 Thompson St. caught fire around 4 a.m. Friday, a fire marshal news release said.

Smith is a part-time firefighter for the small town of Iowa, the release said. He has since been terminated.

No one was in the building at the time of the fire and no firefighters were injured. The building has been vacant since 2020 after it received damage in Hurricane Laura. The station housed equipment and a fire truck.

The fire destroyed the truck and nearly everything inside, Iowa Fire Chief Charlotte Lantier said.

Dozens of firefighters, including Smith, responded to the blaze that fully engulfed the station by the time they arrived, the release said. After extinguishing the fire, the State Fire Marshal was contacted to investigate.

The investigation revealed an intentionally set fire and identified Smith as the suspect.

The State Fire Marshal cannot discuss what evidence connected Smith to the fire. The office brought in dogs specialized in sniffing out fuel sources, said Public Affairs Director Ashley Rodrigue. She could not say if fuel was a source of the fire.

“Deputies determined that the fire was intentionally set.” Rodrigue said, “In this particular instance a scene examination and evidence collection is what got them to the determination.”

Lantier said she does not know why Smith would want to burn down the station. Smith had no disciplinary record with the department, Lantier said.

She would not comment on whether the firefighter used drugs.

“We won’t ever know the answer to that,” Lantier said on Smith’s possible grievance, “unless he comes out and says why. But more than likely he’ll never come up here and tell us.”

The preparedness and response time of the department will not be impacted, Lantier said. The department used the firetruck inside as reserve and the building only stored a portion of the department’s equipment.

“With the outpouring of support coming from all over the nation, we are hoping to get some assistance from other departments to help us get equipment quickly,” Lantier said.

Smith was a part-time firefighter and was employed by the town for six months before to the fire, the release said. He volunteered for a year prior to his official role at the department.

Smith is being held at the Calcasieu Parish Correctional Center.

“This is an unfortunate situation that should not reflect poorly on this department or their dedicated service to their community,” Adams wrote in the release.

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