PoliceOne Staff Report (AIKEN, S.C.) - A 34-year-old volunteer firefighter whose 1986 arson conviction was known to the new department that accepted him has been charged with the June 12 arson fire of a neighbor's home.
William Lawrence Waites, 34, of Wagener, S.C., had been convicted of arson while he was a member of the New Holland, S.C., Volunteer Fire Department. After his 1986 conviction that department refused to allow Waites to return. But the Wagener department did allow Waites to join, knowing of the previous conviction, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
"They (members) are voted on by the membership of the department," Wagener Fire Chief Mark Redd told the Chronicle. "So it is not one or two people who can say yeah or nay."
The June 21 house fire began in a bathroom when someone poured gasoline into an outside access opening and lit the inflammable liquid, New Holland Fire Chief Michael Jackson told the newspaper. Sand and a fire extinguisher were used to quickly stop the fire.
A dispute with the neighbor may have precipitated the arson attempt, Sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank told the newspaper.
The New Holland chief told the newspaper that Waites showed up at the fire after it had been put out, claiming to have been miles away at work when it started. After being interviewed by deputies, Waites was charged with second-degree arson, a charge that carries, upon conviction, a maximum of two to 20 years in prison.
Waites was taken to the Aiken County Detention Center. He is free on a personal recognizance bond.