A firefighter is behind bars charged with arson after police say a blaze at the Albany Volunteer Fire Department was an inside job.
Residents in Albany are breathing a sigh of relief after police say they've caught the arsonist who torched the town's brand new fire house.
"We're glad there's been an arrest made. I think a lot of people are going to sleep better tonight knowing that it's sort of come to an end," said Chief Donald Peters of the Albany Volunteer Fire Dept.
On Sunday, firefighters watched their building burn. The flames trapped their tools inside.
"You know, everything's right there to fight the fire, but you just can't get to it to do so," Assistant Chief Josh Pilbin said Sunday.
Police say the arsonist used a passcode to access the station's back door. But was it an inside job?
Elmer "James" Joerg was one of the first volunteer firefighters on scene. Sunday, he told WCAX News how frustrated he was by the crime.
"If somebody calls for help tomorrow I don't know what we're going to do," Joerg said. "We're hoping that the insurance will help us out but 90-percent loss is unbelievable."
Prior to the blaze, Joerg was soliciting equipment donations from Boston and New Jersey, upset the department's newest pumper was from 1976. This arson was just another blow.
"We're just devastated by this because we have limited resources here now everything is gone by one person," Joerg said.
Police now say that one person is James Joerg. The 45-year-old firefighter is charged with second-degree arson and reckless endangerment, allegations he denied in court.
"We did have suspicion. We started eliminating who it could and couldn't be," Chief Peters said.
Police say game cameras setup in the station caught Joerg in the act. He later confessed from the hospital after being admitted for an unknown illness. He told police he ripped down the smoke detectors, turned the stove on high, ignited cardboard and tossed the burning paper into one of the fire trucks.
"It's surprising when you see somebody quite often and to know that they could do something like that," said Bernie Alden. He lost his own store to a fire a few weeks ago. It sits right next to the firehouse. He says Joerg's confession makes him wonder.
"Who knows? I mean the fire investigators think it had started in the pizza oven, but now there's that question," Alden said.
According to court papers, Joerg told police he had frequent urges to set fires and admitted he was dangerous and wouldn't have minded dying in the firehouse arson.
"I think we got a good fire group, too. Just one of them things. Just one nut in the barrel," said Carl Chaffee, the chair of the Albany select board.
This is not Joerg's first brush with the law. In 2008, police say he reported being shot during a gun sale in Morgan. He was later charged with making a false report after police discovered he made up the story and shot himself in the arm.
And in 1999, Joerg's Holland home burned down, killing his father-in-law. That blaze was initially blamed on the 73-year-old falling asleep with a cigarette, but now state police investigators say there are going to take a fresh look at Joerg's entire history.
Joerg is being held for lack of $250,000 bail. A judge also ordered a competency and sanity evaluation.
Thursday, December 5 2013 6:59 PM EST2013-12-05 23:59:01 GMT
Hundreds of Vermonters could lose unemployment benefits early if Congress doesn't act. Congress expanded packages after the 2008 economic crash but the offer is set to expire. Regular unemployment benefits,More >>
Hundreds of Vermonters could lose their unemployment benefits early if Congress doesn't act. Regular unemployment benefits will not be affected. But additional emergency benefits will expire before the end of December.More >>
Thursday, December 5 2013 7:03 PM EST2013-12-06 00:03:28 GMT
McDonalds in South Burlington needed to dish out more happy meals Thursday because certain people weren't Mc-loving it. More than 20 people gathered outside protesting for higher wages, benefits and betterMore >>
Across the country Thursday people protested at fast-food restaurants, demanding higher wages for workers. In Vermont, we also saw people speaking out.More >>
Thursday, December 5 2013 7:08 PM EST2013-12-06 00:08:48 GMT
It looks like something you'd find on your grandmother's sofa, but thanks to the magic of Burton, it's cool again. It's what the U.S. Snowboarding team will wear when they compete in Sochi, Russia, forMore >>
The Winter Olympics are just around the corner and the U.S. Snowboarding team will be showing off some Vermont style. Burton designed the official uniforms. But some fans have questions about where they were made.More >>
Thursday, December 5 2013 7:10 PM EST2013-12-06 00:10:53 GMT
The Grinch has struck in New Haven. Vermont State police say sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, someone stole about a dozen Christmas trees from the Green Haven Nursery. Police areMore >>
Vermont State police say someone stole a dozen Christmas trees from a nursery in New Haven.More >>
Thursday, December 5 2013 12:11 PM EST2013-12-05 17:11:34 GMT
Vermont's lieutenant governor is the latest to call for a further delay in implementing the state's new health care exchange. Vermont Health Connect has been riddled with problems since it launched inMore >>
Vermont's lieutenant governor is the latest to call for a further delay in implementing the state's new health care exchange.More >>