Volunteer Firefighter Accused Of Setting Grass Fire

Volunteer Firefighter Accused Of Setting Grass Fire

24 February 2009

published by www.ktul.com

USA — Sheriff’s deputies arrest a volunteer firefighter for arson.

Investigators believe he started a string of fires in Oakhurst, just Southwest of Tulsa. The Oakhurst Fire Chief started putting two and two together.

The Oakhurst Fire Department was empty Tuesday, but the volunteers there have been very busy recently putting out little grass fires. Suddenly, the Oakhurst Fire Chief began to see a pattern.

“Because of the nature of the fires, and how close they were to the fire station, he began to suspect it might be a firefighter who was starting the fires,” said Tulsa County Sheriff Captain John Bowman.

In fact, the Chief’s instincts appear to have been right. Merle Lawson, 44, was eventually arrested for arson, and yes, he’s a volunteer fire fighter for Oakhurst.

So how did they catch him?

Fellow firefighters said they actually saw Merle Lawson try to catch an area on fire, even throwing gasoline on it. Nearby homeowners would not talk on camera, but the Sheriff’s Department said this easily could have turned into another grass fire like the one near Mannford, where a firefighter died.

“The conditions of the wind are right for a fire in a grassy area to get out of control, and we didn’t want that to happen,” said Cpt. Bowman.

Lawson is believed to be behind several small grass fires in Oakhurst, but do investigators think he could also be tied to the Mannford grass fires that are not very far away? “Not at this time. There’s no hint of that at this time. If it develops we’ll follow it up. But we don’t expect that to occur,” said Cpt. Bowman.

Witnesses told investigators that after Lawson allegedly started the latest grass fire in Oakhurst, he ran to the fire station to wait for the call and respond.

Lawson is now charged with at least one count of arson and is out of jail on a $5000 bond.

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