Indiana Homeowner Sues Fire Department Over Volunteer Arson

The owner of a mobile home in Perry Township, Indiana that was set on fire last year by a volunteer firefighter with a history of setting fires has filed suit against the fire department, the fire chief and the arsonist.

Duane Connaughton filed suit against the Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department over a fire that occurred on September 6, 2016. The suit also names the firefighter-arsonist, Adam Selbee, Fire Chief Max Peters, and Trustee Bob Phillips alleging a number of theories including:

  • arson
  • negligent hiring
  • negligent supervision
  • negligence
  • gross negligence
  • intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress
  • negligence per se

According to WBIW, Selbee, 19, has a history of fire setting that the department failed to address. According to Fox 59, Selbee told investigators he set the fires “because he enjoyed responding” to them. He was usually first at the scene or reported them.

Selbee, who is Chief Peters’ grandson, is current facing four counts or arson and three for criminal mischief. More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • mr618

    That’s gotta suck, being fire chief and having your firefighter grandson arrested for a string of arsons.

  • firemedic5100

    It doesn’t sound as if the volunteer fire department is charged with fire investigations, so therefore might not have known that a member was suspected. I work closely with my counties fire marshals office, and yet, I occasionally will not be told of an inquiry into a member or employee’s suspected involvement in an incident until he or she was cleared. It must be that way to lessen the probability of contaminating the evidence or investigation. However, the Chief may have turned a blind eye because of relationship. I don’t pretend to know Indiana law, but Arson is a criminal charge. Negligence is usually a civil charge. I’m not seeing how the two are combined in a civil suit.

  • Dialogos68

    I know about this story!!!!! This was NOT a MOBILE HOME! But a modular home built on a permanent foundation… This false narrative started with the tacky local newspaper called the Times Mail in Bedford IN. The article LIED when it claimed that the Fire Dept tried to work with the legal team of the person who filed the lawsuit. The exact opposite is what really happened. The fire department was notified and the dishonest Fire Dept legal team refused to speak to the legal reps from the plaintiff. These are not accidental mistakes in the story, but an organized attempt to slander a victim looking for some justice.

    • CurtVarone

      Dialogos68

      If you think something is incorrect – feel free to set the record straight for us.

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