Former Md. volunteer firefighter sentenced for setting vacant houses on fire

One of the former Maryland volunteer firefighters accused of working with other firefighters and civilians to set vacant Prince George’s County houses on fire has been sentenced for the 2019 and 2020 arsons.

Jeremy Hawkins conspired with four other West Lanham Hills Volunteer Firefighters, along with two men outside of the department, to set four vacant homes on fire, according to a news release from the Office of the State’s Attorney.

He received a sentence of 15 years each on two counts against him, but the judge suspended all but time-served. Hawkins will be on supervised probation for three years and will be required to log 120 hours of community service.

Hawkins conspired with fellow firefighters — Jay St. John, Cole Vazquez, George Smith and Nicholas Holzberger — along with two civilians, Giancarolo Reyes and Francis Ortiz Oro.

The fires were set between Dec. 1, 2019 and Jan. 31, 2020 in areas where the volunteer fire department would lead the response, and at a time when Hawkins and the other firefighters would be on duty.

The homes were empty at the times of the fires and no one was hurt.

Hawkins was indicted on 14 counts, including first-degree arson and multiple conspiracy to commit first-degree arson and misconduct in office charges.

State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy called the case “very disturbing.” Here’s her full statement on the sentencing:

“Our first responders are tasked with protecting us; therefore, to have them conspire to do otherwise unconscionable. I am pleased that the former volunteer firefighters and the civilians in this case have taken responsibility and will face the consequences of their actions. This kind of case can destroy the public’s trust; however, I know that the majority of our firefighters are committed, care about this community and are on the job every day to keep our residents safe.”

The four other firefighters involved in the conspiracy have been sentenced this year and all of them have been banned from being involved in fire suppression activities.

The other two men involved were sentenced in September.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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