Cannelton Fire Chief Arrested While Fighting Fire

By STUART HAMMER | shammer@tristatehomepage.com

Published 12/28 2016 06:49PM

Updated 12/28 2016 09:22PM

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Life in Cannelton, Indiana; a town with just a handful of stop lights, moves pretty slow. It was anything but slow Tuesday as flames poured from a house not far from the river.

Cannelton Volunteer Firefighters arrived in their engines, but one would leave in a cop car.

Firefighters squared off against police officers Tuesday night. Neighbors watched a house burn as the fire chief was hauled away in handcuffs.

According to investigators when officers stepped on scene at 550 Knight Street, Fire Chief Christopher Herzog tried to protect his turf, shoving a Cannelton Police officer multiple times.

Investigators say Herzog pushed Ofc. Ryen Foertsch and yelled profanities, as Foertsch was trying to clear the house, searching for possible victims.

No one was hurt in the fire.

Herzog was arrested and charged with battery against a police officer, a level 6 felony.

Eyewitness News spoke briefly to Herzog who was out of jail, and said he was meeting with an attorney.

Francheska Humphrey lives just up the hill from where the fire broke out. “What was running through my mind was what's gonna happen next?” she says. “What happened next was horrific.”

“I was in shock,” says Chris Zukeschwerdt, whose house was on fire.”When I saw the faces of those firefighters – to see their leader being pulled out of here while he was fighting a fire was just unreal.”

Zukeschwerdt has spent 40 years as an EMT and says, “I've never seen anything like it in my life.”

Humphery recorded the aftermath on her cell phone. She watched first responders in blue and red butt heads, while a fire burned in the background.

“They pulled the fire chief out,” Zukeschwerdt said, while the fire was still smoldering. Humphrey saw him arrested and put in handcuffs.

Neighbors there say police officers then told Cannelton firefighters to pack up. A firefighter can be heard on video telling his crew to pick up the hoses and leave.

“We're in charge of this scene now,” Zukeschwerdt says he heard a police officer say, “and a lot of the fire department guys started saying let's grab out gear and go.”

Zukeschwerdt says he heard the assistant fire chief tell his firefighters to stay put and “make sure this fire is out.”

Well, it wasn't.

The house caught fire again, and torched the rest of the house.

While first responders feud, a man lost his house and everything he owns.

“It's heartbreaking to see,” Humphrey says.

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