Ohio Firefighter Charged with Arson

An Ohio firefighter is facing federal arson charges for setting a series of wildland fires earlier this year. James Bartels, 50, is accused of setting at least 24 fires in the Wayne National Forest.

Bartels, a member of the Greenfield Township Volunteer Fire Department, also served as a dispatcher for Gallia County. He resigned last month.

According to a press release issued by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio (quote):

  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officers observed a truck registered to Bartels near Wayne National Forest on Oct. 29, 2022. Bartels was observed on Dry Ridge Road.
  • Within an hour, a fire was reported in the forest near Dry Ridge Road and Cauley Creek Road.
  • In the days after Bartels’s Nov. 8 resignation from working as a 911 dispatcher for Gallia County, at least 17 fires were lit.
  • Bartels was seen at two separate locations in the vicinity of multiple fire starts within minutes of their ignition.
  • Bartels admitted to starting the fires with a lighter to “give the boys something to do” and to distract himself from depression.
  • He identified 24 arson fires for which he was responsible.
  • His truck’s infotainment system data also placed him at the locations of the fires.

Here is a link to the Press Release.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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