Firefighters react to arson arrests in McDowell County

BECKLEY, W.Va. – Beckley Fire Department goes through extensive background checks and training to avoid incidents similar to McDowell County’s arson cases involving firefighters.

Earlier this week, four McDowell County fire fighters were arrested for allegedly setting a series of fires in the War area. Assistant State Fire Marshall says that incidents like this aren’t uncommon across the state.

Beckley Fire Department’s Captain Mike Peck wasn’t surprised by the comment. He said every profession has its bad apples and fire fighting is no different.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re volunteer or if you’re a paid department. You still have bad eggs in the group for the wrong reason,” said Peck. “We try to have background checks with the police department and we also do interviews.”

Both volunteer and career fire departments perform these precautions to weed out those who are unfit for the job. On top of background checks, firefighters must take classes and pass physical tests as well.

In 29 years of his service, Peck says Beckley hasn’t had firefighter turn on the community for their own entertainment. Instead, firefighters like Josh Davis share a much different view of the job.

“You know, this is a fun job. It is fun, sometimes, to fight fires,” said Davis. “I don’t wish somebody’s house would catch on fire and I don’t think anybody here does.”

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at