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Joseph Michael Brannen, Fake Firefighter, Admits Starting Library Blaze So He Could Put It Out: Cops

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Joseph Michael Brannen had a burning ambition to be a firefighter, but his plans have gone up in smoke.

Brannen, 18, is in hot water after police say he admitted he purposely started a fire at his local library, so he could help put it out.

The fire occurred July 6 at the East Hernando Branch Library in Brooksville, Fla., and investigators immediately suspected foul play when they arrived on the scene and saw a man later identified as Brannen decked out in firefighter gear, the Sun-Sentinel.com reported.

Brannen told authorities he had heard the fire call over the scanner and wanted to help fight the blaze with the equipment he purchased on eBay.

However, he was not allowed to go near the fire.

Upon further investigation, officials began to believe Brannen started the fire himself.

During a voluntary interview, the suspect admitted to starting the blaze in hopes of helping the professional firefighters, according to a release from the Hernando County Sheriff's Dept. During the interview, cops say he provided details about how he entered the library after hours and how he set the fire.

Investigators also discovered that Brannen claimed to be a professional firefighter on Facebook, where his profile stated he was employed by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

During his interview, he allegedly said that by writing that, he just meant he wanted to work there, not that he was actually an employee.

Brannen was charged with second-degree arson and is being held at the Hernando County Jail on $3,000 bond.

His alleged antics are, understandably, not making him look good in the eyes of neighbors like Melissa Mazelin, who lives across the street from the burned library.

"He is very stupid," Mazelin told HernandoToday.com. "I'm going to go set something on fire, and go help you put out what I started. He's stupid."

The damage from the fire is estimated to be more than $500,000, but things could have been worse if Brannen had actually helped put out the fire he allegedly started.

Kevin Carroll, Assistant Fire Chief for the Hernando County Fire Dept., said firefighting equipment like the items Brannen purchased on eBay has an expiration date. There's no way of knowing his gear was past its prime -- especially his air tank.

"We're not sure what he had in this bottle, if anything at all," Carroll told BayNews9.com. "And if he had actually connected to it and there was not air in there, he could actually suffocate."

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