UPDATE: Details emerge on fatal house fire

UPDATE: IAEGER, WV (WOAY)- According to court documents, Robert Beckner confessed that he set the residence on fire by igniting a piece of notebook paper and spreading lighter fluid throughout the residence to accelerate the fire.


UPDATE: IAEGER, WV (WOAY) – A man has been arrested and charged in connection to a house fire that killed a McDowell County firefighter.

West Virginia State Police tell WOAY that Robert Beckner, 36, of Iaeger, has been charged with three counts of first-degree arson, and one count of first-degree murder.

Beckner confessed to the arson via an audio statement.

The Fire Marshal’s Office in McDowell County made the arrest.


IAEGER, WV (WOAY) – Russ Roberson, a firefighter in the small town of Iaeger in McDowell County, was fighting a three-structure-wide fire before he tragically lost his life.

The Iaeger Volunteer Fire Department had originally extinguished that same fire earlier in the night, but according to State Fire Marshal Deputy Jason Baltic, an unknown catalyst caused the fire to start once again at around 3 A.M., and the fire department deployed a second time to put it out. 

“The fire department responded back there, several fire departments did. And at that time the structure was fully engulfed, which in turn ended up extending to the two neighboring structures, a trailer on the right and another dwelling on the left,” Baltic said.

After getting to the scene for the second time that night, Roberson had noticed a resident of one of the buildings rushing back into the home, officials currently believe to retrieve a pet. Roberson followed the individual inside to get them out, and in-doing so, officials believe he had inhaled smoke. EMS began treating him before he became unresponsive and was then transferred to a nearby hospital, where he was eventually pronounced dead sometime later. 

“Anytime we have a fatality in the state, it’s bad, period. Anytime we have one of our own that loses his life or her life, it’s tragic.”

Iaeger is a very small town; roughly only 250 people live in the city limits. When a tragedy like this happens in the small, tight-knit community, it affects everybody. 

“For a small area like this, everybody knows everybody. So it hurts everybody in the community.”

Some details of what happened during the fire on Saturday are still pending. But it likely won’t be long until more details are found by the Fire Marshal’s office.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up to support Roberson’s family with funeral expenses.