Humor

Florida Teen Sets Half-Million-Dollar Fire So He Can Pretend to Be a Firefighter

It's not easy becoming a firefighter, but there's a fairly established path to take if that's your dream: starting intense workouts, studying up on fire codes, maybe getting some sweet tribal tattoos to fit in.

Police say an 18-year-old from Florida went a different route, by buying a bunch of firefighting gear on eBay, setting a massive fire at his local library , and then showing up at the scene to help put out the blaze.

The flames tore through the East Hernando Branch Library in Brooksville, Florida, on July 6, eventually causing more than $500,000 in damage to the building.

When firefighters rolled up to the library, they were surprised to find 18-year-old Joseph Michael Brannen there in bunker gear, the duds firefighters use at active fires. Brannen told them he'd bought the gear on eBay because he wanted to be a volunteer firefighter and that he'd showed up at the library after hearing about the blaze on the scanner.

Police were suspicious of the story, though, and they brought Brannen in for questioning last week. After grilling the teen, the cops say, he finally admitted he'd snuck into the library and set the fire himself so he could jump in with the real firefighters.

Instead of a gig at the firehouse, the teen now faces felony arson charges.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink