According to a report from KLTV, Courtney Dwaine Keel, 44, a Hainesville (TX) Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD) member, was arrested on Tuesday for arson and charged in connection with eight suspicious fires. A native of Mineola, Keel posted a collective $200,000 bond on Wednesday.
Wood County Fire Marshall Tully Davidson said he believed the flare he discovered burning in a dry grassy ditch near CR 2590 in August led him believe the resulting fire was arson. According to Keel’s arrest affidavit, flares were also found at grass fires set on August 24 and 25, 2020.
Davidson suspected Keel, who told Davidson he was worried that his fingerprints may be on flares near the fires because “his uncle” had stolen flares off his boat and that he “was a bad man” who would come after him if Keel identified him as the suspect, according to the affidavit.
Wood County Sheriff’s Office Chief Robert Holland then began looking into some of the HVFD’s most recent fire responses. Records showed nine separate suspicious fires from June 2020 to September 24, 2021.
Video of a hay bale fire on July 27, 2020, showed Keel driving away from the fire with no other vehicles in the area. Later, he had returned to the scene in fire gear to assist the HVFD. Keel then drove up to two separate vacant residence fires just as they were igniting and returned to both scenes to help extinguish the flames.
Holland’s investigation showed Keel, who was the only area firefighter who had responded to all nine fires, lived between 1.5 and two miles from all nine.