WICHITA CO. (KFDX/KJTL) — A firefighter with the Punkin Center Volunteer Fire Department is charged with five counts of arson after investigators become suspicious about several recent fires and used electronic surveillance to track his truck.
Aaron Arnold, 34, who lives outside Punkin Center, is jailed on $120,000 total bonds.
On April 18, the fire chiefs of Electra and Punkin Center contacted Wichita County Sheriff David Duke about suspicions they had that Arnold was responsible for a series of small fires since March 17 in bar ditches and pasture land north of Electra.
They said witnesses had seen a green Ford pickup with no tailgate leaving the areas just before fires were reported.
Punkin Center Fire Chief Matthew McAllister said he recognized the description as Arnold’s truck. McAllister also noted many of the fires occurred shortly after 3 p.m. when Arnold got off work.
A sheriff investigator obtained a warrant to install electronic surveillance on Arnold’s truck.
On May 13 about 7:30 p.m., a fire was reported on Flippin Road. Several large hay bales were burning and Arnold responded to the fire call. An investigation showed the fire to be suspicious.
A check of surveillance data showed Arnold’s truck had driven to the scene of the fire at about 6:15 p.m. and was there about five minutes before driving to his home on Lalk Road about two miles away.
Arnold then responded to the fire station when the fire call went out. Loss of the burned hay bales was placed at $4,000.
After Arnold was arrested on May 16, investigators said he at first was not truthful as to his activities and whereabouts the night of that fire but then admitted setting the fire using paper, paper towels, and matches.
They said he also admitted to setting other fires, and evidence was found inside his truck. They said Arnold told them after setting a fire, he would return home and wait for the fire call to go out then respond with other firefighters to fight the fires.
Arnold has one prior conviction, for burglary, in 2008.