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Firefighter charged in W.Va. blaze

January 14, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

A Berkeley County firefighter was charged with one count of first-degree arson Tuesday in connection with a fire that destroyed his mother's mobile home in November 2003.

Police allege that William A. "Billy" Feimster, 25, of 1966 Rock Cliff Drive, Martinsburg, W.Va., set fire to the mobile home because he was unhappy with his mother's sloppy housekeeping.

A warrant was issued for Feimster after he failed to appear in court Monday on an unrelated embezzlement charge. He was in Eastern Regional Jail Tuesday on $60,000 bail.

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"He said it (the mobile home) was very sloppy and he didn't like it," said Sgt. Russell Shackelford of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department. Shackelford and Deputy B.J. Dusek, an arson investigator, handled the case.

Feimster lived on and off at the home with his mother and also spent nights at South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Department, where he was the department's ambulance rescue chief, and at Lamberts, a private ambulance transport company where he also worked, Shackelford said.

In a video-taped statement he gave to police Tuesday, Feimster said he drove a Lamberts ambulance to his mother's Arden-Nollville Road home on Nov. 20, 2003, to retrieve some items, including videos to watch at work, Shackelford said.

After becoming upset with the home's messy interior, Feimster lighted a roadside flare - a device used at crash sites - and put it in a kitchen garbage can, police alleged. He then drove back to the ambulance company and, when the fire call was dispatched, went to his mother's home to help fight the blaze, police said.

Feimster's mother was not at home at the time. The mobile home was destroyed, Shackelford said.

A man who answered the phone at South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Department Tuesday would not say whether Feimster still worked there.

In December, when Feimster was charged with embezzlement, Fire Chief Rick Petry said that Feimster had been removed temporarily from his position and was not allowed to answer any calls. At that time, Petry said Feimster had served as the ambulance rescue chief for much of the year.

The embezzlement charge stemmed from allegations that Feimster used a county credit card to buy $1,036 worth of personal items from the Martinsburg Wal-Mart. The credit card was supposed to be used for work-related expenses.

Feimster was not in Magistrate Court Monday for his preliminary hearing on the embezzlement charge. He voluntarily went to the sheriff's department Tuesday, Shackelford said, and was arrested without incident.

Shackelford said the case should not negatively affect people's views of area firefighters and fire departments.

"They do a great job, the volunteers do a great job giving their time and energy," he said.

Conviction of a charge of arson carries a prison sentence of from two to 20 years. Conviction of a charge of embezzlement carries a sentence of from one to 10 years.

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