Volunteer firefighters accused of setting fires in north Louisiana "for thrills"

According to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the suspects are identified as 34-year-old Matthew Crane, of Springhill, and 23-year-old Montana Ludlam, of Cullen. / Source: State Fire Marshal’s Office
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WEBSTER PARISH, La. (KNOE) - Two volunteer firefighters are accused of setting multiple fires in north Louisiana.

According to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the suspects are identified as 34-year-old Matthew Crane, of Springhill, and 23-year-old Montana Ludlam, of Cullen. Both joined the Shongaloo Fire Department in Webster Parish in March.

On June 22, 2019, authorities found an abandoned house that had been burned down in the 800 block of Highway 808 in Haynesville. An investigation revealed that the building was intentionally set on fire on June 18.

Authorities identified two other suspicious fires that happened around the same time. One was a discarded couch near Dorcheat Bridge in Webster Parish on the same night. The second was a grass fire on South Willow Road in Springhill. That one happened a few days before the others.

Investigators were able to connect the suspects to the fire and arrested them. They believe the purpose of setting these fires was simply to have firefighters dispatched to extinguish them.

“It’s disheartening to see people entrusted as public servants turn on the public they are supposed to protect with dangerous behaviors like these,” said State Fire Marshal Butch Browning, “While it is unfortunate to have to put firefighters behind bars for fire-related crimes, let this case serve as a warning to any other individuals with intentions of putting the public and their fellow firefighters in jeopardy for thrills. The State Fire Marshal’s Office will not tolerate these actions.”

Both suspects face one count each of simple arson, simple burglary and criminal conspiracy in Claiborne Parish. They also face two counts each of simple arson and criminal conspiracy in Webster Parish.