A Boynton volunteer firefighter is expected to be charged with arson after admitting he set seven fires last month, Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson said.
Pearson said Dustin Davis, 25, intentionally set fires, and they happened during a time when every fire department in the county was battling blazes around the clock.
Investigators are hoping the district attorney will file official charges in coming days.
"We've had these cases in the past with firefighters, but they're hard to catch," Pearson said. "We finally caught one."
Pearson called volunteer fire chief Steve Allen "a hero," for "thinking outside the box and really catching [Davis] basically in the act." When confronted with evidence, Davis admitted to Allen that he was the arsonist, Pearson said.
After the fires were set, Allen immediately was suspicious, telling Pearson a firefighter had to be to blame.
"The fires were set near resources – next to the lake, away from hay bales and structures," Pearson said. "It appears like [Davis] wasn't trying to do a lot of damage. It was apparent it wasn't just somebody throwing a cigarette out the window."
Allen even set up a way to trap the culprit, by encouraging Davis, who didn't know he was a suspect, to use a pager system when he needed to report a fire to his fellow firefighters. This way, Allen was able to keep track of fires reported by Davis.
"[Davis would] report them, call for help and then go fight them," Pearson said. "He was the first one at every fire, hard-worker, and the last one to leave," Pearson said.
Using his own phone, Davis called in the seventh fire to 911, but he gave a fake name to the dispatcher. Despite the alias of "Michael," Davis' voice was easily identified by the fire chief, Pearson said.
The Muskogee Phoenix reported Friday that Davis told a Muskogee County deputy his reasoning for doing it was, "I guess, is he said he's on medication from the VA," Deputy Darrin Berry told the newspaper. "He was missing the camaraderie of being around the guys he worked with. That was a way of getting people together. He didn't want to hurt anyone or damage any property."
Davis was added to the volunteer force recently, and a full background check was done before he could begin work.
"The thing is, you've got to realize, we can do a background check on someone and look into their past," Pearson said.
"But whether you're wanting to be hired as Tulsa Police or a volunteer firefighter, you can't do a background check into what someone thinks, what's in their head."