Ex-Fire Chief Convicted of Attempted Arson Says He's Not a Pyromaniac


Then, on Dec. 19, 2012, Scharber was called to the fire house, where investigators from the multi-agency task force were waiting to interrogate him. The meeting lasted almost five hours, and Scharber initially identified other firefighters as possible suspects.

But when investigators revealed that he was their primary target, Scharber confessed to not just being out at Mattila’s fishing resort, but also to setting nine fires.

Scharber was charged with setting fire to federal land and attempted arson. He took himself to a psychologist, who initially diagnosed him with pyromania, but later revised that diagnosis.

“It was diagnosed as a temporary adjustment disorder which can last, in this case, up to a year,” Scharber said.

“It's considered a short-term mental illness brought on by acute stress,” Stefanie Scharber said.

The acute stress that triggered his disorder, Ryan Scharber said, was the stress brought on by his newborn son Ayden’s constant crying.

"It was a legitimate way for me to get away for a couple hours without saying, ‘Hey Steph, I’m gonna go hang out with the guys and have some beers,'” Ryan Scharber said. “I was always solving everybody else's problems. I didn’t realize that I needed a little bit of help, myself, at the time.”

Scharber pleaded guilty, and, as part of a minimum mandatory sentence, received five years in a federal prison. While he admitted to starting nine fires, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dunne wondered if he may have started many more.

“From 2010 to 2012, there were 39 suspicious fires in Babbitt, Minn.,” Dunne said. “Since the time he was caught, there have been zero.”

Even though no one was hurt and no structures were damaged in the fires that Scharber confessed to, Dunne believed the sentence was fair.

“He was the chief of the Babbitt Volunteer Fire Department, and he lit multiple fires in the community that he was sworn to serve and protect,” Dunne said.

“That's an egregious breach of the public trust.”

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