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Man charged with claiming to be firefighter

July 21, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

andrews@herald-mail.com

A man who was shooed away from a fire scene Friday for pretending to be a firefighter came back later pretending to be a fire marshal, then came back a third time, authorities said.

Michael Franklin Bias II, 19, was charged Tuesday night with impersonating a firefighter and displaying firefighting articles for the purpose of deception. Each crime carries a sentence of up to three years in jail.

Hagerstown Assistant Fire Marshal Douglas DeHaven said he saw Bias at the scene of a fire at 614-616 W. Washington St. Friday afternoon, trying to pull a hose from a firetruck. DeHaven said he told him to stop.

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Bias claimed to be a member of the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Co., which is part of the Hagerstown Fire Department, DeHaven said.

Charging documents at Washington County District Court say Bias was wearing a shirt with a Pioneer Hook and Ladder Co. emblem on it and pointed to the emblem as proof that he was a firefighter.

DeHaven said he found out that Bias was not part of the fire company and again told him to leave, which he did.

However, at about 7 p.m., after firefighters had left, Bias came back to the scene of the fire, charging documents say.

A neighbor saw Bias inside a restricted area that was marked by tape near the burned apartment building, charging documents say.

The neighbor reported that Bias told him he was a fire marshal and was called there to investigate the fire, charging documents say.

But the neighbor thought that wasn't right and called the Hagerstown Fire Marshal's Office, charging documents say.

Bias left before police arrived, but came back again, on his bicycle, at about 10:30 p.m., according to charging documents. The same neighbor called police, whose arrival caused Bias to drop his bicycle and run from officers, charging documents say.

A warrant for Bias' arrest was issued Saturday. He was arrested Tuesday, then released on his own recognizance.

Attempts to reach him Wednesday were unsuccessful. A phone number listed as his on charging documents was not correct, according to someone who answered the phone. He also could not be found at the address listed as his on charging documents, 792 Frederick St. in Hagerstown.

In a news release, DeHaven said there have been other incidents in the Hagerstown area recently in which someone claimed to be a fire marshal.

DeHaven said in a telephone interview that there's nothing linking Bias to those incidents. He said the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office and Hagerstown Police were investigating some cases.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Faron Taylor said he only knew of one.

In early June, someone went to a Washington County mobile home park and claimed to be a Pennsylvania firefighter who was there to do an inspection, Taylor said. The resident let the person in.

Taylor said a Pennsylvania firefighter would not be authorized to inspect a Washington County home.

Hagerstown Police Sgt. Paul Kifer said the only remotely similar report his department had recently was a few months ago. Someone claimed to be a state official, but not in a capacity connected to firefighting or fire investigation, Kifer said.

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