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Five call firefighters from region charged with arson

September 03, 2010
PALMER — Five area firefighters were arraigned Friday in Palmer District Court on charges of arson, allegedly in connection with three intentionally set fires earlier this summer.

The call firefighters were arrested Thursday evening following an investigation conducted by state Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan's office in conjunction with Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett's office.

The individuals arrested and arraigned are Brian Findley of Ashford, Conn., Dylan Lajeunesse, of Holland, Patrick Elliot, of Charlton, Donnie Moores, of Brimfield, and Jordan Frank, of West Brookfield.

Elliot and Frank are members of the Brimfield Fire Department and Lajeunesse is a member of the Holland Fire Department, while Findley and Moores are members of both.

All individuals are between the ages of 18 and 20 years old.

The arson charges stem from three blazes several weeks apart in June and July of this year.

On June 15, a fire was set at 153 Paige Hill Road in Brimfield. A second Brimfield fire was set exactly one week later at 151 Washington Road. On July 13, a fire was set at 6 Chandler Road in Holland.

All local news outlets previously reported the Holland fire as having taken place on Valley Drive. The discrepancy was corrected by Coan's office.

All three fires took place in the early morning hours of Tuesdays, and were in remote areas of the two towns. Each of the houses was destroyed beyond repair.

The sites of the fires appear to have been deliberately chosen for not only their out-of-the-way locales, but because they had all been long abandoned and had no active utilities running to them.

No injuries were reported at any of the fires.

Earlier in the year, two other suspicious fires were set in Ware, but no connection has been drawn between those fires and the accused suspects in the other three.

In a written statement Friday morning, Coan said, "Being a firefighter is a noble public service where one neighbor protects another. A firefighter accused of deliberately setting fires betrays the public's trust and destroys the credibility of the fire service. It is also a betrayal of the trust firefighters need to place in one another to see that everyone goes home at the end of the day."

Bennett, who is prosecuting the case, said, "The conduct of these defendants is outrageous. Their callous disregard for the safety of the community and the safety of the dedicated firefighters who had to respond to the scene of the fires, is shocking. It is a very sad day when people pledged to serve the public become a serious danger to the public."

Also in a written statement, Brimfield Fire Chief Stephen Denning said, "Unfortunately the actions of these five young men gives the entire fire service a black eye, which is unfair to the decent, honest members of the Holland and Brimfield Fire Departments who volunteer their time away from their families to properly train and respond to emergencies to protect their neighbors at all hours of the day or night."

Holland Fire Chief Paul Foster said, "These five young men needlessly put the lives of other firefighters at risk. We are a tight-knit community and their actions wound us all and they have forever altered their young lives."

Diane Panaccione and James Wettlaufer, chairmen of the Brimfield and Holland boards of selectmen respectively, could not be reached for comment Friday.

News staff writer Christopher Tanguay may be reached at (508) 909-4132, or by e-mail at ctanguay@stonebridgepress.com.

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