Volunteer Firemen Charged With Arson - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/25/08

Volunteer Firemen Charged With Arson

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Hockley County authorities say they've solved a string of intentionally set fires, but the suspects are surprising.

Sheriff's deputies arrested 17-year-old Jeremy Solis late Sunday night. Solis and 22-year-old Noel Escobedo are charged with arson for allegedly setting several fires in the Ropesville area. Here's the shocker, both men are volunteer fire fighters in Ropesville.

NewsChannel 11 told you about these fires earlier this month, when the sheriff's office asked for viewer tips to find the person setting these fires.  There was even a $10,000 reward offered to get the suspect off the streets, but it turns out, all investigators needed was a pair of boots.

"They finally admitted to setting all those fires over there," Hockley County Sheriff David Kinney said. 

Kinney is now looking at just how many fires Solis and Escobedo may have set. "It's going to be quite a bit," he said. 

Investigators have been looking for a suspected arsonist setting grass and cotton on fire for more than a month, now. Late Sunday night, they caught a break. An abandoned home in Ropesville caught fire around 11 p.m.  Investigators immediately responded, and picked up on a set of shoe tracks.

"They followed those tracks to a residence about a block away, right to the door," Kinney said. 

Solis' relatives answered.

"This is where he was staying," Kinney said. 

When sheriff's deputies got to the house, they couldn't find the shoes that matched the tracks they were following; that's what led them to the Ropesville Fire Department.

"They found a set of boots that matched the tracks, so when those boys showed up they interviewed the subject that owned the boots, and he ‘fessed up to setting the fires," Kinney said. 

Solis told investigators that Escobedo also played a part in starting the fires.

"He also admitted to it.  Said they were bored, that's the only excuse they had," Kinney said. 

Luckily, no one has been hurt in the fires, but the costs, especially for destroyed cotton modules, are high. Kinney says it's disappointing that people trusted to protect put others in danger.

"Most all your volunteer firemen are doing it to help their neighbors and as public service, but you run into outlaws in every area," Kinney said. 

Sheriff Kinney tells NewsChannel 11 they've issued an arrest warrant for Escobedo, but he had not been booked into the Hockley County Jail as of Monday night. 

Authorities are checking with neighboring counties to see if these two men can be connected to other arson fires.

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