COLUMBUS, OH (WOWK) — A former Gallia County 911 dispatcher was charged for at least 24 arson fires he allegedly lit in Wayne National Forest.
According to the US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, 50-year-old James Bartels, of Patriot, Ohio, was arrested on Tuesday. He is currently an administrator at the Greenfield Township Volunteer Fire Department.
Court records say that Ohio Department of Natural Resources officers saw Bartels’ truck near Wayne National Forest on Oct. 29, and, within an hour, a fire was reported in the same area.
The US Attorney’s office says that Bartels resigned from his position as a Gallia County dispatcher on Nov. 8, and in the days after his resignation, at least 17 fires were lit. They say that Bartels was seen in the vicinity of multiple fires within minutes of their ignition.
They say that Bartels admitted to starting the fires with a lighter and said he did it to “give the boys something to do” and to distract himself from depression.
Bartels will have a preliminary hearing on Jan. 3, 2023.
Each arson charge could come with an up to five-year prison sentence.