Indiana Firefighter Sentenced to Five Years For Arson

A volunteer firefighter from Indiana has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for setting three fires in a vacant house last year. William Andrew Desch pled guilty to three counts of arson and burglary. Desch was a member of the Hanover Township Volunteer Fire Company.

Last week Judge Richard Striegel handed down the sentence and indicated it was five years to serve without the possibility of parole. According to the Madison Courier, Judge Striegel told Desch he has the right to appeal the sentence, and may be able to have it modified by undergoing a mental evaluation.

Desch, a firefighter with Hanover for four years, admitted to investigators he set fires. Shortly after his arrest the fire department issued the following press release:

  • “The Hanover Township Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. (HFD) was founded on principles of morality, truth and honor. HFD prides itself on a long history of being a steadfast hand for our community in times of need. HFD requires that its members hold the same values as the department.
  • “When a firefighter commits an act of arson, everything that the firefighter was sworn to protect is endangered. It was recently brought to the attention of HFD that one of its members, William Andrew Desch, was allegedly setting fires. This firefighter has destroyed the very mission in which he was tasked. It was the decision of HFD to place Desch on immediate suspension. The suspension will continue without change until further notice.
  • “Actions like those alleged of Desch will not be tolerated by HFD. HFD is fully cooperating with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office, and will continue to do so. HFD is currently reviewing its policies and guidelines, and will make the necessary changes to eliminate the possibility of future incidents. The HFD is committed to providing quality and professional public service. HFD would like to reassure the community that HFD is diligent in its promise.
  • “Hanover Fire Department finds the allegations against Desch to be very reprehensible,” said Cory Thomas, public information officer. “These actions do not represent Hanover Fire Department. We are committed to our mission of serving the community with respect, honor and dignity.”

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.
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