Three suspicious grass fires in and around Barron earlier this spring started an investigation by the Barron County Sheriff’s Department that resulted with felony charges of arson and second-degree reckless endangerment against a Barron-Maple Grove volunteer firefighter, according to Barron County Circuit Court documents.
Defendant Justin J. Cloud, 32, of Barron, is free on $10,000 signature bond pending a Friday, June 5, court appearance.
The investigation began Tuesday, May 5, when a witness made a 911 call to report she had spotted a grass fire in the ditch near 10 1/2 Avenue and 17th Street in the town of Maple Grove.
When the witness reported the fire, she also said she had seen “a younger man (at the scene) who left rapidly in a red Dodge truck,” going north on 17th Street back toward Barron.
Barron-Maple Grove firefighters arrived and quicky put out the fire.
A sheriff’s detective later spoke with two fire department officials, including Chief Michael Romsos and Assistant Chief Ben Cole.
Romsos told the detective there had been two previous suspicious grass fires, one in the predawn hours of Sunday, April 26, near a Canadian National Railway trestle on the east side of Barron, the second on Sunday, May 3, in the city Industrial Park.
Although there was no property damage, both fires were close to private buildings, the complaint said
Investigators learned the defendant lives close to where the two fires took place, and that the vehicle he drives matches the description of the truck scene by the witness in the town of Maple Grove fire.
Sheriff’s investigators contacted the defendant on Thursday, May 14, where he allegedly confessed to setting all three fires.
Under questioning, the defendant allegedly said he used spray cologne and paper to ignite the May 3 fire at the Industrial Park, and found a pile of dry grass in the ditch on May 5, which he allegedly ignited with a lighter and facial tissue.
The complaint charges the defendant with two counts of arson, three counts of second-degree reckless endangerment, and a misdemeanor charge of negligent handling of building material.
If convicted, he could face up to nearly 38 years behind bars and/or fines of up to $105,000.