CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Five volunteer firefighters in Cabell County are facing felony charges for allegedly setting fires so they could later respond to them.
All five are suspended from the Barboursville Volunteer Fire Department, according to BVFD Chief Chad Ward.
Charles Weybrecht "Chase" Peoples, 20, is charged with burning etc. of other buildings or structures, also known as second-degree arson according to the fire marshal.
Brett Allen Ray, 20, is charged with first-degree arson.
Glenn Fletcher Harman, 20, is charged with burning etc. of other buildings or structures, also known as second-degree arson according to the fire marshal.
Travis Michael Bailey, 28, is charged with first-degree arson.
Bailey admitted to setting a fire on Feb.
Ian Hockenberry, 21, is charged with first-degree arson.
The West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office made the arrests Tuesday. All five were arraigned at the Cabell County Courthouse.
Ward tells WSAZ the fire department was made aware of the investigation in early December. That's when "all involved parties" were suspended, pending the outcome of this investigation.
"The Barboursville Fire Dept. is cooperating fully with the WV State Fire Marshal’s Office and the prosecutor handling the case," Ward said. "We are unable to comment further at this time."
One of the fires happened on April 7, 2017. It was at a home in the 5300 block of Guyan River Road in Barboursville. Firefighters found a single story home, made from wood, over an embankment on fire. More than a year later, on Nov. 26, 2018, Hockenberry admitted to going inside the home and setting the fire. He admitted to doing it so that he could later respond with the Barboursville Volunteer Fire Department.
At the same address, there was another fire on Dec. 20, 2017. This time, the BVFD responded to a garage apartment fire. The apartment roof was collapsing and "fully engulfed" in fire.
It wasn't until nearly a year later, on Nov. 26, 2018, that one of the firefighters came forward. Hockenberry told investigators that Ray set the fire. He knows this because Hockenberry says he was with Ray at the time.
Ray allegedly got in through a back door. Hockenberry said Ray set the fire so that the pair could then respond to the scene as members of the BVFD. The same day Hockenberry spoke with investigators, Ray confessed to the crime.
Then, there was a fire on Feb. 6, 2018. An abandoned building in the 6300 block of Ohio River Road in Lesage caught fire. The building, also known as the Ash Apple Orchard Stand, was a total loss.
Bailey confessed to the Feb. 6 fire, according to the criminal complaint. He also told investigators that Peoples and Harman were with him when he set the fire. Peoples then confessed to the state fire marshal's office that he knew Bailey was going to set the fire and was there when it happened. Harman confessed, too, and said Bailey set the fire so the group could respond once the fire was called in to 911.
A third fire happened on Feb. 18, 2018 at a home in the 6300 block of East Pea Ridge Road in Huntington. This building was also "fully engulfed" when the BVFD got on scene. On Nov. 29, 2018, Bailed admitted to intentionally setting the fire, using a flare to ignite it. Once again, Bailey admitted to committing arson so that he could respond as a firefighter.
Kim Tomblin runs a daycare next to the Barboursville Fire Department. She was shocked when she learned what the five men are accused of.
"I personally do know several of them," she said. "They're always there. They're always here for the village."
Case in point: WSAZ ran a story last July about Hockenberry helping save an unconscious woman from a house fire. That was not one of the fires mentioned in the criminal complaints.
Neighbors say the department has had an upstanding reputation, which is why this development came as such a big surprise.
"It was wrong," Tomblin said. "That's not something you randomly go out and do, start fires."