Three members of the Cooper County Fire Protection District have been arrested after an investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. After an August 6 call to Cooper County 911, a false report was alleged to have been filed, according to investigators. This led to an internal investigation on the part of the District and the Highway Patrol eventually arrested a third member.
Initially, Jonathan M. Watson and William J. Vollrath, both 18 years old, were charged with 2nd degree arson, 2nd degree burglary and stealing. After further review of the case by the Highway Patrol, the charges were amended to suspicion of on all counts. The third individual charged is a minor. The allegations leveled on all three led to their termination by the CCFD. They cited a violation of their code of ethics as reasoning for the firings.
"This is a personnel matter and it's our policy not to comment on such matters at this time," said Russell Gerling, President of the Cooper County Fire Protection District.
A press release from the district describes the alleged events as "unprecedented in the District's 32-year history. According to the release, the District has begun the process of reviewing and enhancing policies and training procedures to ensure an event of this type does not happen again in the future.
At this time, a great deal is not known about the surrounding events and arrests. A representative with the Highway Patrol pointed out that volunteer firefighters are paid per fire they respond to.
"In questioning them, there were also a couple fires involving a haybarn and one back in July in an unoccupied structure. Right now, it looks as though these individuals were filing these reports and making these calls to get on the job paid-training," said a Highway Patrol representative in Jefferson City.