DULUTH, Minn. — An ex-fire chief who pleaded guilty to setting fire to federal land and attempted arson in his Minnesota community says that, contrary to a psychologist’s previous diagnosis, he isn’t a pyromaniac.
“I think that was an initial assessment of a possible few different things,” Ryan Scharber told “20/20” co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas. “After several months of going to therapy, it became more clear that me getting excited and me wanting to light fires wasn’t an issue.”
When an unprecedented number of suspicious fires were set in Babbitt, Minn., between 2010 and 2012, no one ever suspected it might actually be the town’s fire chief who set them. Within three years of joining the Babbitt volunteer fire department, Scharber became the fire chief. Between his full-time job at a local mine and the long hours at the fire department, Scharber was often away from home just as his family was expanding. He and his wife, Stefanie Scharber, welcomed their first son, Miles, in 2009. Two years later, another son, Ayden, followed. But Ayden’s birth brought with it some unexpected stress at home.