Former volunteer firefighter faces 20 counts of arson

Johnny Tarver (Source: Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry)
Johnny Tarver (Source: Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry)

FRANKLINTON, LA (WAFB) - A former volunteer firefighter wanted on arson charges was arrested in connection with 20 fires that were intentionally set in a two-month period.

Johnny Tarver, 23, of Franklinton, was booked in the Washington Parish Jail on 20 counts of simple arson. Jail officials said he was released after posting a $30,000 bond. He had been a volunteer fireman with the Washington Parish Fire District No. 2 since November 2013.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry reported most of the fires were set in wooded areas. Hay bales were burned in three of the fires. There was no mention of any of the arsons involving homes. No injuries were reported.

Ag Commissioner Mike Strain said LDAF enforcement investigators got involved in the case on March 11 and resulted in arrest warrants being issued for Tarver. Three days later, deputies with the Washington Parish Sheriff's Office were called out to a brush fire Friday. Deputies reported the caller told them a man driving a red four-door car had stopped and tried to convince her the fire was a controlled burn. She reportedly said the man would not give his name.

According to investigators, a deputy spotted a car early the next morning that matched the description of the one the woman reported and discovered it was registered to Tarver. The deputy pulled over the car and Tarver was arrested.

"It's especially disappointing to learn the suspect was, until shortly before being taken into custody, a volunteer firefighter," Strain said in a written release. "It is our job to help bring to justice people who put lives in danger and property at risk of being destroyed by acting irresponsibly."

A conviction on one charge of simple arson, where damage is less than $500, carries up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500 or both.

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