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Big Bend area firefighter arrested for arson after recent string of roadside fires

Crews respond to the Roadside Park Fire in Brewster County on April 27, 2024.
Texas A&M Forest Service
Crews respond to the Roadside Park Fire in Brewster County on April 27, 2024.

An Alpine volunteer firefighter was arrested Friday and charged with arson for allegedly setting multiple roadside fires in the Big Bend region over at least the last few weeks.

David Matthew Neet was taken into custody Friday afternoon after what the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office described as a “lengthy investigation into multiple brush fires in the area.”

“During the course of the fire investigations, several incendiary devices were located,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.

The sheriff’s office said Neet was also an employee with an ambulance company called 1st Response EMS in Odessa.

In an interview, Alpine Fire Chief Andrew Pierce said the arrest “wasn’t really a shock” to the department, which had been cooperating with the investigation.

“We’ve had him as a suspect,” Pierce said.

The fire chief described Neet, an Alpine resident, as a volunteer who was “pretty low on the totem pole” at the department and who only occasionally responded to emergency calls.

“He was one of our guys that was more off than on,” Pierce said.

Investigators are still trying to figure out exactly how many fires Neet may have been responsible for and over what period of time, Pierce said.

Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson told the Big Bend Sentinel that the authorities have been investigating the fires “for a good while.”

“These fires have been going on for over two years,” he told the newspaper. “We just started getting clues and using our new technology to figure it out.”

Neet was still being held on a $300,000 bond at the Brewster County Jail as of Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear if Neet had an attorney.

A motive for the alleged arson remains a mystery, Pierce said.

“We’re trying to figure out the actual intention behind it,” he said. ”As of right now, we honestly do not have a motive with all the evidence we have before us.”

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Neet was released from jail on bond.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.