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2 Louisiana volunteer firefighters accused of arson; fired

July 2, 2019

SHONGALOO, La. (AP) — Two men who recently joined a rural Louisiana fire department are accused of setting fire to an abandoned house, a couch and grass.

Matthew Crane, 34, of Springhill, and Montana Ludlam, 23, of Cullen, each faces arson and criminal conspiracy charges in Claiborne and Webster parishes, the State Fire Marshal’s Office said in a news release Tuesday. Each also faces a burglary charge in Claiborne Parish, where the house was located.

“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,” State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said.

Fire marshal’s spokeswoman Ashley Rodrigue said in an email that she didn’t know whether either man has an attorney who could speak for him.

Both men joined the Shongaloo Fire Department in March as volunteer firefighters and have now been fired, according to the news release.

The burned house was found June 22 in Haynesville, about 9 miles (15 km) east of Shongaloo, a village in Webster Parish.

A tipster told investigators firefighters had torched the house on June 18 in hopes of being sent to put it out, Rodrigue said.

The couch burned that same night, and the grass fire was a few days earlier. Both of those were reported to the Shongaloo Fire Department for response.

The fire marshal’s office said Ludlam admitted involvement in all three fires, while Crane said he was involved in one and knew about the others.

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