Volunteer firefighters accused in multiple arson cases

Volunteer firefighters accused in multiple arson cases
Matthew Crane, 34, (left) and Montana Ludlam, 23 (right) (Source: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal)

(WAFB) - Two volunteer firefighters have been arrested for reportedly starting three fires in two parishes.

The Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal (LAOSFM) says Matthew Crane, 34, of Springhill, and Montana Ludlam, 23, of Cullen, are both facing charges of simple arson, simple burglary, and criminal conspiracy in Claiborne Parish. And in Webster Parish, they’re facing two counts each of simple arson and criminal conspiracy.

Officials with LAOSFM say on June 22, the office was contacted by the Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office for help determining the cause of an abandoned house fire in the 800 block of Highway 808 in Haynesville. While no fire departments in the area were notified about the fire, officials did receive a tip the fire had been set intentionally. It’s believed the house was set on fire on June 18 by area firefighters in the hopes of being dispatched to put it out.

Crane and Ludlam, who joined up with the Shongaloo Fire Department back in March, were both identified as suspects.

LAOSFM says during the investigation, deputies learned about two other suspicious fires that had happened in the area around the same time. One was a discarded couch near Dorcheat Bridge in Webster Parish; the other a grass fire on South Willow Road in Springhill. Both fires were reported to the Shongaloo Fire Department.

After being taken into custody, LAOSFM says Ludlam admitted to starting all three fires. Crane also reportedly admitted being involved and knowing about the other fires. Both men were fired from the department.

“It’s disheartening to see people entrusted as public servants turn on the public they are supposed to protect with dangerous behaviors like these,” said State Fire Marshal Butch Browning. “While it is unfortunate to have to put firefighters behind bars for fire-related crimes, 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. The State Fire Marshal’s Office will not tolerate these actions.”

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