Plymouth Fire Official’s Son Arraigned In Arson Spree

Plymouth Fire Official’s Son Arraigned In Arson Spree

22 January 2009

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USA — A spate of more than 15 suspicious fires plaguedPlymouth last year, and Brett Fennessy complained to his girlfriend that whoever was setting them was “getting out of control.”

As a member of the town’s volunteer fire department, he appeared to be doing what he could to help, usually being among the first to arrive at the scene, sometimes even spotting and reporting a fire first.

He also was setting them, according to police.

Fennessy, a 22-year-old college student and aspiring arson investigator, was arraigned Wednesday in Superior Court inNew Britain on 35 charges, including first-degree arson, related to the fires. Arrested in September, he is being held, with bail set at $1 million.

None of the fires caused serious injuries, although some caused significant property damage. In court documents, police say that in addition to brush fires, Fennessy set fire to three houses, one camper, three barns, three vehicles and three garages, including his parents’ — twice.

In a statement confessing to most of the fires, Fennessy told police he often used a concoction he called “napalm,” which he made at home or at the Plymouth Company Fire House, where he was stationed.

His father, Stephen Fennessy, is chairman of Plymouth’s fire commission. Before police arrested his son, he worried that the fires at his home meant that someone was targeting him because of his position.

“I do not know why I have done this,” Brett Fennessy said in his confession.

Calls to the Fennessy home and Plymouth Mayor Vincent Festa Jr. were not returned Wednesday.

Brett Fennessy told police he set several brush and barn fires about four years ago when he was a member of Plymouth’sTerryville Fire Department Junior Corps. He had received training from the state Department of Environmental Protection, and in 2007 he traveled toMichigan with a state-sponsored crew to fight wildfires.

State and local officials investigating the recent fires noticed that many of them occurred near the Fennessys’ Hillside Avenue home. One fire broke out in a garage inThomaston, next door to a package store Stephen Fennessy owns, where his son worked.

Police say Brett Fennessy at times set more than one fire a day.

In an interview with police Sept. 25, he said he was “sick of the arsonist running around” and predicted the next target, an old barn near his home. Police followed his car when he left the interview and saw him stop and walk into the barn. Minutes later, he used his cellphone to report a fire inside.

When approached, Brett Fennessy initially said he put the fire out himself. He later changed his attitude and confessed when told he had been under surveillance, police said.

“At that time,” according to a police affidavit, “Brett Fennessy lowered his head and stated that no one appreciates what he does as a firefighter.”

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