Firefighter Arrested On Suspicion Of Starting Four Fires He Helped Put Out

US Navy veteran and firefighter Andrew Bischof, 21, has been arrested and charged with starting four fires in the community he serves in Pennsylvania.

The fires, which occurred within a short distance of each other in New Kensington and Arnold, led to his suspension by the Arnold Fire Department. 

Surveillance footage placed Bischof near the fire scenes, driving a black Ford Escape. He was later seen returning to help extinguish the flames. Bischof faces charges including arson and burglary and is being held without bail.

Firefighter Andrew Bischof Charged With Setting Four Fires In His Community 

A 21-year-old US Navy veteran and firefighter, Andrew Bischof, has been arrested and charged with igniting four fires within the community he served.

These fires, starting at an abandoned building on Saturday morning and culminating in a fourth fire at a residence owned by Bischof’s family, unfolded within a short distance of each other in the New Kensington and Arnold areas. 

Bischof was arrested following an investigation of surveillance footage that placed him near the scenes of each fire, driving a black Ford Escape. As reported by Pennsylvania State Police, the suspected arsonist was then spotted on the surveillance footage returning to two of the fire locations alongside Arnold Engine Co. #2 to assist in firefighting efforts. 

During the firefighting efforts, a deck collapse involving two firefighters occurred, leading to one being transported to the hospital for evaluation by EMS crews. Both firefighters have since returned to active duty. 

Eyewitnesses Recount Scary Fire Incident

Michele Walter, a neighborhood resident who witnessed the alarming scene, recounted seeing thick smoke and flames emanating from the second floor of the burning structure. 

Speaking to CBS News, she expressed her concern, stating: “It is scary because a lot of these houses are built close. If one goes up, another is going to go up. Someone is going to get hurt.” 

Another neighbor, Lana Glenn, shared her experience of the incident. She revealed that she had just put her daughter to bed on the fateful Sunday night when she noticed flames erupting from the rear of her neighbor’s house on Leishman Avenue. Apprehensive that her elderly neighbor might still be inside, she promptly dialed 911 for assistance.

Firefighter Andrew Bischof Suspended After Five Days In Service For Setting Fires

Following his arrest, Bischof has been detained at Westmoreland County Jail and faces a multitude of charges, including arson, aggravated arson, causing or risking catastrophe, criminal mischief, burglary, and criminal trespass. He is currently held without bail, with his preliminary hearings scheduled for the upcoming Thursday.

In light of Bischof’s arrest, the Pennsylvania Arnold Fire Department, which he had joined just five days before, suspended him. This suspension will remain in effect until the conclusion of his legal proceedings.

Arnold Fire Chief Eric Gartley expressed his shock, frustration, and disappointment over the events of the past six days, emphasizing their department’s service “is based in trust, and this type of action betrays that.”

The Arnold Fire Department also released a statement, which reads: “We recognize the level of public trust that the community places in the fire department and we take that trust seriously. We will not tolerate these actions.” They reaffirmed their commitment to collaborating with “local and state law enforcement to ensure justice is served.”

‘It’s A Punch In The Face To The Service’ 

21-Year-Old Pennsylvania Firefighter Arrested On Suspicion Of Starting Four Fires Over The Weekend

The Arnold Fire Department noted they conducted a background check on Bischof before his recruitment, revealing no prior criminal record. 

According to records provided by the Arnold Fire Department, Bischof had been a member of the Citizens Volunteer Fire Company #1. 

Subsequently, he served in the US Navy for four years and received an honorable discharge before becoming part of the Arnold Fire Department.

New Kensington Fire Chief Ed Saliba Jr., whose team responded to one of the fires believed to have been ignited by Bischof, expressed disappointment over the involvement of a new recruit in the incidents. 

Speaking to TRIBLive, Saliba said, “It hurts because we rely on volunteers to perform a job and a duty. We try our best to recruit youths, and when something like this happens, it’s a very big black eye. It’s a punch in the face to the service as a whole.”

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