Suspected arsonist has first court appearance in Rockingham Co.

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MADISON, N.C. — The former Madison firefighter credited with alarming residents of an early morning apartment fire has been arrested and is suspected of starting the blaze.

Jacob Rumley, 21, appeared in a Rockingham County courtroom Wednesday on one charge of first degree arson. His original bond was set at $25,000, but a judge raised that to $50,000.

As of 6:15 PM Rumley was still in the Rockingham County Jail. 

A prosecutor asked for the increase because of a prior conviction. The prosecutor said Rumley plead guilty to impersonating a law enforcement vehicle on August 9th. 

According to the prosecutor, Rumley had a Dodge Charger similar to those driven by state troopers and the Madison Police Department that he had rigged with flashing lights. A source with the Sheriff's department said he may have even tried to pull someone over. 

Rumley is accused of starting a fire at the Lassiter Square Apartments around 10 a.m. Tuesday at 308 Decatur St.

Rumley, who worked as a maintenance technician for the complex, spoke on-camera about alerting residents to the fire by running door to door. 

Rumley credited his swift action to his previous training as a firefighter with the Madison Fire Department in an interview.

 “I just applied my training, in part, knew what I had to do. The building can be replaced but people can’t,” Rumley said.

After an interview with police, the fire marshal and police determined he had set the fire, possibly by using some sort of accelerant. 

Madison Police Chief Perry Webster said the 12 fire departments called out to handle the fire and the nine families displaced as a result of the fire were needlessly put at risk. 

"It's terrible. I don't know what he was hoping to accomplish by committing this act, or why he then came forth as the savior," Webster said.

Webster added, "There were a lot of what ifs that could've taken place. What if the fire had gotten out of control? What if he hadn't been able to get those people out of their homes?"

Chrissy Urbina who lived in the apartment above where the fire was started said Rumley knocked on her door before she was aware of the fire.

“When I finally get to the door, he screamed, ‘Run, it’s a fire, get your animals, get everybody and get out,” said Urbina adding, “He was like a mad man, knocking on everybody’s door, getting everyone out.”

Wednesday, Urbina had been relocated to a motel nearby. She said everything she owns smells like smoke. 

"Why would you set a fire in a building that you work in -- when you know there's people inside?" Urbina asked. "It's just scary that someone that you think you know, who smiles at you every day, would do that."

 Rumley requested a public defender. 

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