Former Blackhawk firefighter is a suspect in several area fires

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A former firefighter faces charges after authorities discover he was a suspect in several area fires.

For most firefighters, their duty is to put out fires, not start them. Former Blackhawk Fire Department firefighter Brandon Cox is accused of staring four fires throughout Winnebago County. He had only been with the department for about four months.

The Blackhawk Fire chief Jonathan Trail says he’s disappointed to hear someone who is supposed to protect the community against fire is starting them.

“We had a suspicious fire that was investigated by the State Fire Marshal,” Trail said. “Upon identifying Brandon was a suspect in that case, he was placed on administrative leave pending further review.”

Early on, the Marshal’s investigation pointed to Cox. According to court documents, he was charged with setting fire to three trailers and a dumpster.

“The thing that people don’t realize is that they believe the evidence is destroyed and it’s typically not,” Win-Bur-Sew Fire Protection District Chief Robert Martin said. “There’s a lot of evidence, there’s a lot of investigative work that can be done that can put the case together.”

Martin is certified in arson investigations through the State Fire Marshal’s office. He says besides being a waste of resources, arson puts others in danger.

chief robert martin/win-bur-sew fire protection dist.
“Firefighters can get hurt,” Martin said. “The people in the residence or buildings, if the fire was set, obviously they can be injured or killed. It’s a serious offense.”

Blackhawk Fire says although these types of incidents aren’t common within fire departments,
the acts are enough to fire up disappointment throughout the district.

chief jonathan trail/blackhawk fire dept.
“We work really hard to make sure that we’re doing the best to protect and preserve property and life,” Trail said. “A lot of our guys are disappointed and upset.”

He was in court this afternoon for his first appearance. If found guilty, Cox could face up to seven years behind bars.

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