Firefighter pleads in arson case

WARRENTON --- A former McDuffie County firefighter has pleaded guilty to insurance fraud stemming from a December 2007 fire that destroyed his doublewide mobile home in Warren County.

Jerry Ronald Fullwood, who had been on leave with the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services pending the outcome of the criminal case, entered the plea during a special hearing in Warren County Superior Court on Oct. 1, according to court officials.

He appeared with his defense attorney, Lucy Bell, of Thomson, and entered the plea after negotiations with the Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office.

Charges against Mr. Fullwood's wife, Elizabeth, were dropped in exchange for his plea to the charge of insurance fraud.

The couple originally had been charged with arson in the first degree, burning a residence without consent and insurance fraud, according to court records.

Toombs Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Roger W. Dunaway Jr. sentenced Mr. Fullwood, 26, to 90 days to 120 days in jail and five years' probation.

Senior Assistant District Attorney William P. Doupe' prosecuted the case. It had been planned for trial by jury to start Monday.

Mr. Fullwood was slightly injured in the Dec. 15 fire off Wright Reese Road. At the time, he told fire officials that his injuries were as the result of his attempting to put out the fire himself. He was taken to Doctor's Hospital in Augusta, where he received treatment for burns to his right foot.

Mr. Fullwood's wife and their infant child escaped without injury.

A day before the fire, Mr. Fullwood had applied to become a volunteer firefighter with Warren County Fire/Rescue Services. He was planning to continue working with McDuffie County.

He later became employed with the Grovetown Department of Public Safety, where he worked only a short while before getting a job as a wrecker service employee.

Dozens of firefighters from both Warren and McDuffie counties battled the mobile home fire. The blaze started from a bucket of hot ambers that had been taken from a fireplace to the back porch.

Afterwards, fellow firefighters raised money for the family, hoping it would help get the couple back on their feet again.