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Crime & Courts

Deputies: Wannabe firefighter faces arson charge in Hernando library blaze


Published:   |   Updated: July 22, 2013 at 02:27 PM

An 18-year-old Brooksville man with ambitions of being a firefighter faces an arson charge after setting fire to a Hernando County library, investigators said.

Joseph Brannen, of 7032 Windmere Road, wore firefighter gear to the July 6 fire at the East Hernando branch library to help professional firefighters extinguish it, detectives said.

Firefighters called to the library, at 6457 Windmere Road, found a small fire on a rear screened porch area, investigators said. Deputies and firefighters at the scene observed a male, later identified as Brannen, wearing firefighter's "bunker" gear, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office said.

When questioned by deputies, Brannen explained that he wanted to be a volunteer firefighter, so he purchased the gear on eBay, the sheriff's office said. Brannen stated that he heard the call about the fire over his scanner and responded, deputies said.

Brannen was not permitted to assist in fighting the fire, authorities said.

During an interview with detectives Friday, Joseph admitted to setting the fire, stating that he wished to return to help extinguish it with the professional firefighters, the sheriff's office said. He provided details as to how he entered the structure and set the fire, the sheriff's office said.

On his Facebook page, he stated he is employed by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. During the interview, he admitted that wasn't true but stated his intent was to eventually work for the agency, the sheriff office said.

Photos from Brennan's Facebook page were placed into evidence, including self-taken photos of himself in full bunker gear, the sheriff's office said.

While no one was hurt, the smoke activated the building's sprinkler system, damaging much of the inventory. The library has remained closed for repairs since the fire.

Brannen was arrested Friday and taken to the Hernando County Jail with bail set at $3,000.

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