LUMBERTON — The Sheriff’s Office today arrested 10 firefighters from two departments and charged them with setting fires to abandoned structures and woods.
The names of the firefighters involved in a yearlong investigation connected to arsons have been identified through public records obtained by The Robesonian. Seven of them are teenagers.
Charged with felony arson burning of a church, uninhabited house or store were Kenny Caulder, 19, 1467 Pinewood Road, Fairmont; and Melquan Williams, 21, 105 N. Florence St., Maxton.
Charged with setting fire to grass, brush or woods were Ashley Marie Oxendine, 18, 690 Merritt Road, Fairmont; John Austin Huggins, 17, 690 Merritt Road, Fairmont; Jordan Scott, 19, 203 Mulberry St., Fairmont; Willie Fuentes Strickland, 42, 4381 Fayetteville Road, Lumberton; Austin Seth Hunt, 23, 4644 U.S. South 301, Rowland; Jordan Emmanuel Hunt, 18, 74 Antioch Road, Lumberton; Kendall Strickland, 18, Old Lennon Drive, Fairmont; and Shellia Huggins, 19, N.C. 41 South, Fairmont.
One of the people charged is an active Maxton police officer and one is a corrections officer, but they had not been identified by name as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Sheriff Kenneth Sealey made the announcement during a press conference and also distributed a statement. The statement said the firefighters were from the Fairmont Rural and Orrum fire departments. It said more than 90 counts of arson-related charges had been brought and more are expected.
The statement said the arrest followed a yearlong investigation that involved the Sheriff’s Office, the State Bureau of Investigation, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the N.C. Forestry Service. It said the firefighters were involved in a conspiracy to set the fires during a two-year period.
“As far as a motive, we are not releasing that information at this time,” Sealey said.
Anyone with information is asked to call sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Graham at 910-671-3100 or the SBI at 800-334-3000.
The Robesonian will continue to update this story at robesonian.com and in its Wednesday print edition as additional details warrant.