Indiana Firefighter Suspected of Setting Fire to Own Home

February 24, 2009

A Lafayette, Indiana, firefighter faces arson charges alleging that he set fire to his home and then tried to prevent responding firefighters from extinguishing the blaze.

Eric W. Tendam, 40, was charged with two felony counts of arson and misdemeanor offenses of obstructing or interfering with a firefighter, criminal mischief and possession of marijuana.

Tendam, who joined the Lafayette Fire Department in 1996, surrendered to authorities last Friday and was later released on bond, according to the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s department.

He’s accused of intentionally starting an Oct. 17 fire that severely damaged his rural Battle Ground home.

When firefighters arrived, flames were visible from the front of the home and material also was burning in a nearby fenced area outside and in the back of a pickup truck in the driveway.

Tendam was arrested after he allegedly ripped a fire hose from a firefighter’s hands and threw another firefighter’s helmet into his burning two-story home.

According to court documents, Tendam was the only person home when the Tippecanoe Township Volunteer Fire Department was called to a house fire at his home.

An affidavit states that authorities suspect the fire was intentionally set based on burn patterns consistent with having flammable liquids applied.

Jim Lewis, an investigator with the Tippecanoe County Fire Investigator Team, said parts of the home smelled of gasoline and that the carpet was burned in a line from the back door to the bedroom and into the dining room.

And an investigator hired by Tendam’s insurance provider also noted two distinct points where the fire started — the living room floor and the master bedroom.

According to the affidavit, Tendam told firefighters that the home was not worth saving.

Tendam told the Journal & Courier that the full story of what happened hasn’t come out.

“I feel like there is lots more going on behind the scenes when it comes to my arrest,” he said Friday evening. “Through all of this no one has given me a fair shake, and I am not feeling too confident about my shot at a fair trial. At this point I just want to tell the real story of what happened.”

Chief Jim Morrow said the department’s Fire Merit Commission will decide what, if any, discipline Tendam faces.

Tendam said he’s anticipating the outcome.

“I am trying to stay positive about what will take place when they make their decision, but the charges are bogus,” he said.


Information from: Journal and Courier,

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