Every year, about a hundred firefighters are arrested in the USA for starting fires.

That’s right: roughly two firefighters every week, arrested for arson.

Some of the men we thought risked their lives to stop fires are actually starting them.

How can this be?

It seems the main reason is they join up to be heroes, bravely putting out fires.

But after several months of sitting around with no fires, they get bored.

They decide to start a fire so they can be a hero putting it out.

John Orr was a captain, he’d been in the fire service for 17 years, his promotion was largely due to his excellent work in investigating the causes of fires.

Eventually, someone queried how come he always knew so much.

They began to notice that wherever Orr went, the number of fires went up.

He was investigated, arrested, tried, and found guilty on 20 counts of arson.

But police believe the real number is closer to 2,000.

After Orr was locked up in 1997, the rate of brush fires in his area went down by 98%.

Caleb Lacey, from Long Island. wanted to be a hero, too.

But although he’d attended ninety call-outs, not one had been a fire.

So he decided to help things along, by splashing petrol up a neighbour’s staircase and setting light to it.

It didn’t occur to him that it meant no one could escape.

So in 2009, a mother and her 3 children died and Lacey was sentenced to 25 years.

Robert Easton was a captain in a firehouse in California.

He knew it wasn’t just about setting fires, it was about making sure you weren’t around when they started.

So he made time-delay fuses from coils of mosquito repellent.

He would throw these from his car and be miles away before there were any flames.

But cameras were secretly set up, and his car was spotted driving past 12 sites where fires started soon after.

Police suspect Easton started 148 fires during his 18-year career as a firefighter.

Leonard Gregg was another firefighter who lived in Arizona.

In 2003, he started a fire in very dry conditions, the fire spread until 30,000 people needed to be evacuated, it covered 423,000 acres and destroyed 467 homes.

In 2016, firefighter David Plante started a fire near his home in New Hampshire.

The blaze got out of control and eventually it took more than 100 firefighters from across the state to put it out.

The firefighters became suspicious when Plante kept asking them to take pictures of him with the fire on his phone.

He wanted the selfies because he was proud to be a firefighter putting out a fire.

The logic that he started the fire seems to have escaped him, as it does most arsonist firefighters.

They get into firefighting because they love the image and want to be part of it.

Then, when it doesn’t work out the way they thought, they go the other way.

Doesn’t that remind you of what a lot of people in our business do?

Graduates looking for a career after university, something fun: advertising looks like fun.

So they start as juniors and immediately get taught that the fun parts are unprofessional and must be rooted out, how the job is to make dull, safe, ads that don’t rock the boat.

And instead of making exciting, fun advertising they learn how to make ads that look like wallpaper, just like everyone else.

And the job isn’t fun, its dull and boring, the opposite of what they originally wanted.

And they are part of making that happen.


As Eldridge Cleaver said: “You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to become part of the problem.”