South Carolina forestry officials accuse a volunteer firefighter of intentionally setting fires near Bamberg earlier this year.
A state Forestry Commission spokesman said agency officers arrested 23-year-old Joshua Ryder of Smoaks on Thursday. He is charged with setting fire to forestland roughly four miles southeast of Bamberg. He was released later in the day on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.
Ryder was a volunteer with the Little Swamp Fire Department. The department’s station is located a mile from the site of the fire.
Hunter’s Chapel Fire Department crews responded to a woods fire near the intersection of Charleston-Augusta Road and Hunters Chapel Road on May 27. An incident report said a retired Department of Natural Resources officer on the scene found fresh tire tracks and a footprint near where the fire started.
The Little Swamp department also responded to the fire. The Forestry Commission said the ex-DNR officer on scene noticed Ryder’s footprints and his vehicle’s tracks appeared to match those found where the blaze began.
An incident report said Ryder admitted setting the fire when questioned by investigators and wrote a confession. Damage was estimated to be about $100.
The spokesman said the Hunters Chapel fire capped off a string of roughly 30 suspicious fires in the area between January and May.