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McDowell Man Arrested on Murder, Arson Charges in Firefighter’s Death

Charleston, W.Va. – State Fire Marshal’s Office investigators charged a McDowell County man Thursday after concluding he intentionally set the fire that cost a volunteer firefighter his life.

Robert Beckner, 36, of Iaeger faces three counts of first-degree arson and one count of first-degree murder in connection with the June 20 fire that began at his residence.

Firefighters were initially dispatched to his 908 West Virginia Ave. home late that evening. After extinguishing the fire, they were called back early the following morning when it rekindled.
It was during that return response that Russell Roberson, 42, of the Iaeger Volunteer Fire Department suffered a fatal medical emergency. The rekindled fire also spread to two nearby dwellings, prompting the additional arson charges against Beckner.

Beckner admitted to setting the fire, investigators said. was arrested Thursday and brought to McDowell County Magistrate Court for his initial appearance. He is being taken to the Southwestern Regional Jail.

A funeral for Roberson will be held Friday. Those honoring his memory include Gov. Jim Justice, who addressed the tragic loss earlier this week.

“Every single one of our firefighters and first responders are all of our heroes. They always run to the fire,” Gov. Justice said. “We know that this man is an absolute hero. We ask so much that you pause and pray for this wonderful man, a hero that we lost.”