Italian Firefighters Started Fires To Get Paid, Police Say

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Many of the members of the fire brigade now under investigation have already admitted to taking part in the arson attacks. Officials are investigating.

A firefighter stares at a fire.

Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking discoveries one can make is that dishonesty can be found anywhere, even among some of the most respected professionals in the world: firefighters.

In Italy, police say that at least 15 firefighters may have set blazes themselves so they could be called to extinguish them. They may have done this to get paid, police say.

The incidents allegedly took place in Sicily during a time of the year when arson is extremely common.

So far, at least one firefighter was placed on house arrest while Sicily law enforcement investigated the incidents. Fifteen others have been detained. The firefighter under house arrest is the head of the local firefighting squad in Ragusa, Sicily.

The potential cases of arson among firefighters were first noticed after members of the fire brigade contacted law enforcement. They said that one team of firefighters had been called more often than all others who worked during the summers of 2013 and 2014. In some cases, a local news agency added, the suspected firefighters may have even called in false alarms.

The team under scrutiny responded to 120 incidents, while others were called to 40 incidents total. They operated by having a team member known as the ringleader light a fire from their own car, make a false report, then run back to the fire station.

“On one occasion, [the ringleader] even said he wanted to set off a bomb so as to take the money available if the emergency vehicles needed to be repaired,” a police statement said.

Local news organizations claim that most of the detained officers confirmed they are guilty of starting fires so they could have more work.

If this case is confirmed and these firefighters are, indeed, to blame for these horrific crimes, we must ask ourselves if the system should be reviewed. After all, if these firefighters thought they could get away with these actions, maybe others have been able to do so in the past, and not only in Italy — quite a terrifying thought.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Richard Carson

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