A 19-year-old volunteer firefighter is facing 18 arson charges for allegedly starting a whole bunch of a fires in small town Alberta—including one that burned down an old-timey wooden rail bridge on Tuesday.
Lawson Schalm, whose dad was once the mayor of the 1,300-person town of Mayerthorpe, was arrested on Friday and remains in custody. For the past two weeks, the baby-faced kid has helped battle a series of suspicious blazes, including the bridge fire that forced evacuations of nearby schools and a trailer park.
A joint statement from Mayerthorpe mayor's office and fire chief confirmed the charges stemmed from 18 separate fire incidents that happened between April 19 and 29. Police are still investigating another four fires in the area that haven't led to charges. Fire officials say nobody was seriously hurt.
Schalm started volunteering with the fire department as a cadet at the tender age 15. In social media posts from that time, the alleged pyromaniac looks like Caillou in an oversized helmet. He became a full member of force last year at the age of 18.
"Obviously we're all shocked," former mayor and parent Albert Schalm told the Edmonton Journal, adding that arson seemed "very out of character." Schalm senior said he found out about the charges via social media.
The kid was set to graduate high school in two months, but will likely have to rethink a career in fire and rescue. "He was planning out his future and where it would go from there, and obviously some of that will be on hold for a while," Schalm told CBC.
Fire officials emphasized "support and understanding" for the Schalm family, and said counselling will be available.
The tiny teen firefighter and alleged arsonist will appear in provincial court Wednesday.
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