PHOENIX – A Phoenix firefighter was arrested Friday after authorities said he broke into fire stations and stole from colleagues, sometimes after setting fires to keep them away.
Police said they announced the arrest after the off-duty, 36-year-old firefighter was caught doing a break-in at a station earlier in the day. His name was not released because he had not yet been booked.
"We were able to actually observe him committing the crime," police spokesman Alan Pfohl said. "During an interview, he did admit to other crimes."
Surveillance and tips from other firefighters led investigators to the suspect, who could face eight counts of theft, two counts of arson and one count each of burglary and criminal damage.
The suspect was described as an 11-year veteran of the Phoenix Fire Department who was working as a "rover" and rotating among different stations. Authorities said the thefts were done while the man was off-duty.
Police said several firefighters reported cash missing from their wallets as well as from collections to pay for meal-shopping.
The thefts began in early January while crews were out on calls.
Police say the thief would enter the station after the departure of the fire engine.
The arson charges stem from dumpster or other trash fires that Pfohl said were set as a diversion.
Phoenix Fire spokesman Larry Subervi said thefts by one of their own were hard to understand.
"We are a family. So, when there's any type of theft, whether it's internal or external, it's difficult for us," Subervi said.