BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A 45-year-old man is accused of setting numerous fires around Barrington this year, police said Thursday.
Lt. Dino DeCrescenzo said officers caught David Peterson in the act Wednesday evening, trying to set a fire in the woods behind Hampden Meadows School.
According to DeCrescenzo, officers were hiding when Peterson came into the woods with his dog. DeCrescenzo said officers saw Peterson bend down and light some leaves on fire with his lighter.
Peterson is now suspected of setting at least 22 fires, and perhaps as many as 30, in Barrington since April, DeCrescenzo said. Those include a fire in the woods near Hampden Meadows School on Monday, and a brush fire near Kent Street on Tuesday.
DeCrescenzo said firefighters did not know they were dealing with an arsonist at first because the fires were sporadic and spread out. However, the fires became more brazen and frequent in the last few weeks. Along with the fires on Monday and Tuesday, Peterson is also accused of setting fires on Sunday and last Friday.
“I know the fire department and the police department are very relieved,” DeCrescenzo said
Peterson is charged with multiple felony arson counts. Police have also charged Peterson with weapon possession because he had a .45 caliber musket, two knives and a stun gun with him when officers arrested him.
“When he was apprehended he was more shocked than anything because he thought he was in a wooded area by himself. He didn’t see any of us hiding in the woods,” DeCrescenzo said. Police said Peterson was remorseful when he admitted to the fires.
According to DeCrescenzo, police are trying to file an enhanced charge against Peterson because a firefighter was hurt battling the fire on Tuesday. He said a limb fell on the firefighter, cracking his helmet. He was treated for head and neck injuries.
“I don’t know how long he’ll be out of work, but he definitely got hit by a falling branch fighting the fire,” DeCrescenzo said.
Peterson was arraigned at the police station Wednesday night, and released on $5,000 surety bail, DeCrescenzo said. Peterson is due back in court in January.