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  1. #1
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    Firefighter arrested for...starting a fire?

    The investigation into a grassfire that forced evacuations in the north Metro has led to an arrest.
    John Berken, who is 40-years-old and from the Twin Cities suburb of Columbus, is in custody, accused of starting the fire. However, he has not been formally charged, according to Anoka County.
    Investigators say he's a volunteer firefighter for a local department.
    "He'd probably be the last thing he would do in my opinion," said friend Rob Lasiuta.
    The fire started Monday around 2 p.m. in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area near W. Broadway Avenue near Lexington Avenue NE. By 8 p.m. it had burned 1,500 acres.
    Firefighters from every fire department in Anoka and Washington Counties worked the fire. Overnight they were able to bring it under control.
    By Tuesday morning, crews were monitoring the fire, watching for and dousing hot spots.
    Thirty homes were evacuated for a short time Monday, but no one was hurt and no structures were damaged.
    Officials with the Anoka County Sheriff's Department and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources called the fire suspicious and brought in an arson team to investigate.
    Officials have not yet said what led to the arrest. Berken is being held at the Anoka County Jail.
    Besides the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area fire, DNR officials said there were five other fires Monday. The first was reported at 2 a.m. The fires were in Blaine, Forest Lake and Ham Lake.
    Authorities say at this time, there is no link to the other grassfires.


    KSTP TV - Minneapolis and St. Paul - Firefighter accused of starting*Anoka Co. grassfire
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

    "The Wicked Flee When No Man Pursueth: But The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion".

    We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

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    The opinions, beliefs, and ideas expressed in this post are mine, and mine alone. They are NOT the opinions, beliefs, ideas, or policies of my Agency, Police Chief, City Council, or any member of my department.

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    Another story, from a much more reliable news source, WCCO-TV

    FOREST LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) ―
    John Berken, a Forest Lake volunteer firefighter, faces possible arson charges for starting the fire at the Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge.

    A man who was trained to prevent and fight fires is now under arrest accused of starting a fire at the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area.

    The fire started Monday afternoon and burned well into the night.

    John Berken is now facing possible arson charges for starting the fire. It was an eyewitness account that led police to Berken.

    "I looked back up in my mirror again and seen a stream of smoke and fireworks go off in the ditch and instant flames," said an Anoka man, who saw fireworks shoot out of a car window on Monday.

    He immediately called 911 and chased the car. The man doesn't want to be identified because he is afraid the suspect might try to hurt his family.

    "We traveled pretty fast to catch up to him," said the witness. "And got the plate number and description of the car and description of the person that was in there."

    He told investigators the person had a firefighter license plate. Berken is a volunteer firefighter with Forest Lake and is paid anywhere from $13 to $16 an hour for fighting fires.

    Berken used to own the Ford dealership in town. But he was forced to close down and file for bankruptcy last year after failing to pay nearly $4 million in debt to American Express.

    Berken's home is within a few miles of where this witness saw the fireworks come out of a car.

    "I seen red, white, blue, yellow, green," said the witness. "It was a rocket, you know one of them fireworks, shot off and it was instant flames right away. You could just see orange glow."

    The fire burned 1500 acres in and around the Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge. About a dozen homes were evacuated as a precaution.

    Berken could be charged sometime on Wednesday.

    Witness Led To Firefighter Arrest For Wildfires - wcco.com
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

    "The Wicked Flee When No Man Pursueth: But The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion".

    We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

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    The opinions, beliefs, and ideas expressed in this post are mine, and mine alone. They are NOT the opinions, beliefs, ideas, or policies of my Agency, Police Chief, City Council, or any member of my department.

  3. #3
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    That's not that uncommon. Fascination with fire is fascination with fire.
    When I used to be somebody (I'm center top)

    "A burning desire for social justice is never a substitute for knowing what you're talking about". -Thomas Sowell-

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    jmur5074's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    That's not that uncommon. Fascination with fire is fascination with fire.

    Being from the west coast, I'm sure you know who John Orr is?
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

    "The Wicked Flee When No Man Pursueth: But The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion".

    We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

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    The opinions, beliefs, and ideas expressed in this post are mine, and mine alone. They are NOT the opinions, beliefs, ideas, or policies of my Agency, Police Chief, City Council, or any member of my department.

  5. #5
    Retdetsgt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmur5074 View Post
    Being from the west coast, I'm sure you know who John Orr is?
    Not off hand.
    When I used to be somebody (I'm center top)

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    Agree with Retdetsgt. I've heard many stories of firefighters starting fires. We had one in my county that lit up an old abandoned barn a few years back. Mostly they're voly's that do this.
    The world would be much cleaner if blind people carried brooms instead of sticks.

    At communion, when the priest says "Body of Christ", I say "Thanks, I've been working out", then I grab the cracker and run back to my seat

    An amateur practices until he gets it right. A professional practices until he cant get it wrong.

    They've got us surrounded? Good. Now we can fire in any direction. Those bastards won't get away this time.

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    The morning news also said Berken has a conviction for illegally broadcasting on an FAA Control Tower frequency, disguising his voice as Arabic, then threatening to blow up one of the reliever airports (Flying Cloud) in the metro area.
    The views expressed in the above post are the sole opinion of the author and do not reflect any official position by the author's employer and/or municipality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmur5074 View Post
    Being from the west coast, I'm sure you know who John Orr is?

    I know who he is.

    For those that don't: John Leonard Orr - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    We've had more than a few serials up here, including Paul Keller.

    Car 4 ran the task force that caught Keller.

    Paul Kenneth Keller - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



    The west has a higher incidence of these, as well as serial killers.
    I'm your huckleberry...

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    but every girl I found was either one way or the other...



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    Not uncommon at all where i come from. A lot of the arson suspects in cases in my county are voly's, and are the first on scene as well as the caller. This is not a jab at the volunteers, most are dedicated, but there are a few bad apples.
    When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

  10. #10
    irishmick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maclean View Post
    The west has a higher incidence of these, as well as serial killers.
    Sometimes the psychiatrists blame it on the rain. *sigh*

    And it sounds like this guys was just freakin' nuts and fire happened to be his outlet this time.
    --"D.B.A.D." --Me

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  11. #11
    irishmick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadwarrior View Post
    Not uncommon at all where i come from. A lot of the arson suspects in cases in my county are voly's, and are the first on scene as well as the caller. This is not a jab at the volunteers, most are dedicated, but there are a few bad apples.
    hehehe It's the same as the Reserve LEO's that pull over cars in their POV's and listen to scanners all the time just to show up at the scene. (OK, not the same cuz most times they're not doing the crime, but it reminds me of it nonetheless.)
    --"D.B.A.D." --Me

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    Quote Originally Posted by irishmick View Post
    hehehe It's the same as the Reserve LEO's that pull over cars in their POV's and listen to scanners all the time just to show up at the scene. (OK, not the same cuz most times they're not doing the crime, but it reminds me of it nonetheless.)
    lol, we have some those Reserve LEO's that do the same.
    When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

  13. #13
    Retdetsgt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irishmick View Post
    hehehe It's the same as the Reserve LEO's that pull over cars in their POV's and listen to scanners all the time just to show up at the scene. (OK, not the same cuz most times they're not doing the crime, but it reminds me of it nonetheless.)
    We have a rule that if any reserve identifies himself as a police officer when he's not on duty and in uniform, that's the end of his reserve career with us. We've had that policy for decades. It definitely puts a halt to any of that activity. In fact, if they're pulled over for a traffic violation and ID themselves, they're canned.

    But we're not particularly reserve friendly anyway. Nearly all of us are of a mind that if the city wants police protection, they can pay for it. We use reserves only for directing traffic at special events, park patrol in the summer, building checks, etc. None are out there taking calls and doing our job.
    When I used to be somebody (I'm center top)

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  14. #14
    Retdetsgt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irishmick View Post
    Sometimes the psychiatrists blame it on the rain. *sigh*

    And it sounds like this guys was just freakin' nuts and fire happened to be his outlet this time.
    I do believe the nutcases tend to gravitate to the west coast. It's not the rain because a lot of them come for S. Calif which has little of it. But I can tell a difference in peoples' general attitudes when I go back to Texas to visit.
    When I used to be somebody (I'm center top)

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  15. #15
    irishmick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    We have a rule that if any reserve identifies himself as a police officer when he's not on duty and in uniform, that's the end of his reserve career with us. We've had that policy for decades. It definitely puts a halt to any of that activity. In fact, if they're pulled over for a traffic violation and ID themselves, they're canned.

    But we're not particularly reserve friendly anyway. Nearly all of us are of a mind that if the city wants police protection, they can pay for it. We use reserves only for directing traffic at special events, park patrol in the summer, building checks, etc. None are out there taking calls and doing our job.
    We have the same policies in place as far as identifying yourself out of uniform, etc.

    As far as reserves go, I think they're a valuable part of our sheriff's office. When most guys ride solo cars in a county that's 1879 square miles, with a crew that's horribly understaffed because of budget, our reserves are there to do cover, transports, and take calls to help out. Our reserves go through the same basic training process, sometimes a more extensive FTEP process, and with the exception of the occasional asshat, are respected and often hired on at our department when there are openings.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by irishmick View Post
    We have the same policies in place as far as identifying yourself out of uniform, etc.

    As far as reserves go, I think they're a valuable part of our sheriff's office. When most guys ride solo cars in a county that's 1879 square miles, with a crew that's horribly understaffed because of budget, our reserves are there to do cover, transports, and take calls to help out.
    The reserves are the reason they don't have to budget. Why should they when they can get free labor? You can bet the county commissioners take them into account when they make up the budget.... Our union has fought long and hard to keep them from doing the same work as us. But you can bet the city would LOVE to cut our budget so they can buy more art and crap if they could find someone to do the job for free.

    From time to time, we've had some ugly battles over it, but all our people are full-time, paid with benefits. I'm saying nothing about the quality of training, etc., but it galls the hell out of me that someone does what I did for a living as a hobby. You can bet if we went to their workplaces and did their jobs for nothing, they'd see it quite differently.

    Obviously, that's one of my soapboxes....
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    The reserves are the reason they don't have to budget. Why should they when they can get free labor? You can bet the county commissioners take them into account when they make up the budget.... Our union has fought long and hard to keep them from doing the same work as us. But you can bet the city would LOVE to cut our budget so they can buy more art and crap if they could find someone to do the job for free.

    From time to time, we've had some ugly battles over it, but all our people are full-time, paid with benefits. I'm saying nothing about the quality of training, etc., but it galls the hell out of me that someone does what I did for a living as a hobby. You can bet if we went to their workplaces and did their jobs for nothing, they'd see it quite differently.

    Obviously, that's one of my soapboxes....
    Just out of curiosity, why is it such a big issue? If you have a job and do it well, why does it really matter that someone else is willing to donate their time to do the same job? If it doesn't put your job in jeopardy, why take the union resources to fight it when they could be better spent on other things like pay increases, better training, etc? And, why shouldn't someone do it as a hobby? They're helping to make their community a better place as they can. Most reservists that I've met are more dedicated to doing their job well despite the fact that they have to pay for all of their own equipment, not get paid for training on their own time, and invest time away from their families to do so.

    And of course, I'm not trying to get into a pissing match or anything...but it's obviously one of my soapboxes as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    The reserves are the reason they don't have to budget. Why should they when they can get free labor? You can bet the county commissioners take them into account when they make up the budget.... Our union has fought long and hard to keep them from doing the same work as us. But you can bet the city would LOVE to cut our budget so they can buy more art and crap if they could find someone to do the job for free.

    From time to time, we've had some ugly battles over it, but all our people are full-time, paid with benefits. I'm saying nothing about the quality of training, etc., but it galls the hell out of me that someone does what I did for a living as a hobby. You can bet if we went to their workplaces and did their jobs for nothing, they'd see it quite differently.

    Obviously, that's one of my soapboxes....
    You've said before you saw law enforcement as a job rather than a calling.

    OK with me, not going to say everyone sees things the way I do.

    Reserves are often not engaging in a "hobby" but rather finding a way to participate in a "calling."

    I've known several high speed cops who simply could not AFFORD to do police work full time when their other career paid them in the 6 digit range.

    I think it depends on the guy or girl, not the title or the pay. Your mileage may vary.

    Also, you might want to check out your department's web site. They indicate Reserve Police Officers perform patrol work.
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  19. #19
    Retdetsgt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maclean View Post
    You've said before you saw law enforcement as a job rather than a calling.

    Also, you might want to check out your department's web site. They indicate Reserve Police Officers perform patrol work.
    Again, I wonder how many reserves would welcome me coming to their job and working for nothing, call or not. I like to weld, wanna guess what would happen to my truck in the parking lot if I went to a local shop and told the mgr I'd like to work for nothing?

    The "calling" to a lot of people is no more than being able to carry a gun, wear a uniform and have authority. The "calling" is feeding their ego, don't kid yourself.

    Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. The "patrol" they do is park patrol (walking parks in the summer) and other things that are supplemental. I can tell you for a fact they don't take cars out and take calls nor even transport for regular officers. They do not replace any regular officer slot. Feel free to call them and ask what reserves in Portland do. You can't learn everything with a google search.
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  20. #20
    MacLean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    The "calling" to a lot of people is no more than being able to carry a gun, wear a uniform and have authority. The "calling" is feeding their ego, don't kid yourself.
    I'm not kidding anyone.

    I was a reserve for 11 of 14 years, so we just have to disagree on this one.

    I ran my own car, held down my own beat, and surpassed the training hours required of my full time partners.

    I suppose it varies depending on where you are and who you are.
    I'm your huckleberry...

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