Volunteer fireman facing eight counts of arson

By Larry Tucker
editor@wood.cm
Posted 10/7/21

A local man and volunteer fireman with the Hainesville Fire Department has been arrested for arson in eight suspicious fires which occurred within two miles of his home over the past year. 

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Volunteer fireman facing eight counts of arson

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A local man and volunteer fireman with the Hainesville Fire Department has been arrested for arson in eight suspicious fires which occurred within two miles of his home over the past year. 

Courtney Dwaine Keel, 44, has been charged with eight counts of arson. There have been nine suspicious fires since 2020. Keel was the only Hainesville firefighter to respond to all of the fires investigated.

Wood County Fire Marshal Tully Davidson said he had located a flare burning in a dry ditch near CR 2590 in August. Flares were also found at two fires in 2020.

“The arrest was made possible by the work and cooperation of the Wood County Sheriff’s Department. They did most of the work on this one,” Davidson said.

Wood County Chief Deputy Robert Holland had been investigating recent fires to which Hainesville VFD had responded. There were nine separate suspicious fires from June 2020 through Sept. 24, 2021.

“I had come upon a fire myself Aug. 25 when I had left home from lunch,” Holland said. “They actually started back in June of last year. When I started doing my investigation, I went back and found that June 8 there was a house fire and I started from that day forward.

“After the fire I had found when I rolled up to it, there was a flare in a ditch that had burned an area the size a car. I thought then I had barely just missed an arsonist,” Holland noted. “Not long after that our Fire Marshal Tully Davidson called me. He told me he had been in touch with the Hainesville fire chief and they suspected one of their own was doing some fires. I thought that was strange because I had rolled upon a fire myself.”

Holland said Davidson had told him of two fires just days before the one Holland had come upon.

“I thought then we had a problem. He told me who they suspected so from that day forward I knew who I was looking at so I started compiling the data and looked at every fire Hainesville went out on for a year,” Holland said. “He (Keel) was the only fireman who had made each one of those calls. I am going to try and get all these cases to the district attorney so they can get them before the grand jury at the end of the month. I told them that I personally want to be at the grand jury to testify.”

Holland said there had been no injuries from any of the fires.

“The three structure fires had all been abandoned and each one was within one mile of his (Keel) house. They were all right there close to his house,” Holland added.  

Keel also was at two separate abandoned residence fires just as they were beginning and returned to both scenes to assist extinguishing the fire.

Bond was set at $50,000 for each charge by Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Jerry Parker. Keel was released Sept. 29.