Volunteer Teen Fireman Charged With Arson

An 18-year-old volunteer fireman has been charged with arson in a series of six fires in Merrillville since late November.

James M. Edwards III of Crown Point, a volunteer with the Merrillville Fire Department, remained in the Lake County Jail under $80,000 bond Wednesday night. Conviction on all counts could carry a prison term of up to 35 years, Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter said.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Edwards admitted setting the fires starting Nov. 28 at a vacant apartment building under construction.

Later fires, all in late January and early this month, were at a catering business inside Merrillville's Croatian Center; Grandma's Country Depot, about three blocks away; and three vehicles at the nearby Exhaust Master auto repair shop.

Edwards said he started the fires "for the call-outs," according to the affidavit filed with Lake Superior Court.