When the young man showed up on the scene of a King George County trailer fire at 1 a.m. and asked firefighters if they needed any help, something didn’t sound quite right, said Chief David Moody.
The man wore a high visibility yellow jacket, but didn’t have any other turnout gear. He said he was a volunteer firefighter in Westmoreland County and even mentioned the names of a few people in the Cople District department.
His behavior raised some red flags, and Moody said King George fire crews looked into his story.
“I am glad they did because it seems as if this has been a pattern for this individual,” said Moody, chief of King George Fire, Rescue & Emergency Services.
On Wednesday, Bradley P. Townshend, 26, of Colonial Beach was arrested by King George Deputy Ryan Moneyhon and charged with impersonating a firefighter or emergency medical service provider. Townshend is being held without bond at the Rappahannock Regional Jail.
Townshend has been charged with the same offense twice in Fluvanna County, according to court records, and that’s why his charge has been raised to a felony. He was first charged in Fluvanna, southeast of Charlottesville, with a misdemeanor, but a second offense there brought a felony charge. He’s scheduled for a preliminary hearing later this month.
Townshend also has been charged with impersonating a firefighter or emergency personnel in Westmoreland County, said Sheriff C.O. Balderson. After the King George incident, fire chiefs in Westmoreland started talking and realized Townshend had misrepresented himself “numerous times,” the Westmoreland sheriff said, but there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him for each one.
But at a Sunday incident, he went to a Colonial Beach scene and suggested to rescue officials he was a firefighter. He asked if they needed any help, and Townshend did move an ambulance, which resulted in another felony charge of driving a vehicle without consent of owner, Balderson said. He also was charged with a misdemeanor for driving with a suspended license. Before the recent incidents, Townshend had been charged with misdemeanor larceny in Westmoreland in July 2014 and served two months in jail, according to court records.
Terri Robertson, who has started a fundraising campaign for the single mother of two whose trailer was destroyed in the Sunday morning fire, said the whole incident was creepy.
Robertson said fire officials came by to see Sabrina Kidd, the trailer owner, after the fire to provide an update and one of them mentioned the impostor.
Moody said there’s no evidence the blaze, which was reported to have started behind the clothes dryer, was set intentionally or that Townshend was involved in any way.