Daily Devotional

For Oct 01, 2014 ← Return

The Fire Starter

Average reading time is about 2 minutes
AN AMAZING FACT:  He may have been the worst serial arsonist in U.S. history. Between 1984 and 1991, federal agents believe that John Orr may have set as many as 2,000 fires in the Los Angeles area in which at least four people died. What makes this even more shocking is that John Orr was a fire captain and arson investigator for the Glendale California Fire Department. Orr trained at least 1,200 firefighters and solved many arson investigations. Orr was eventually caught, convicted, and is currently serving a life sentence in prison.

John Leonard Orr was also a novelist and wrote—you guessed it—about an arsonist he named Aaron Styles. Part of the investigation work uncovered almost perfect similarities between the novelist’s fires and those taking place in Southern California. This “Fire Lover,” as Joseph Wambaugh’s bestselling true crime book on Orr refers to him, had very specific methods to starting fires. Using a timing device, Orr would bundle three matchsticks to a lit cigarette and wrap it in ruled yellow writing paper secured by a rubber band. He would also set fires in other areas, like small grassy hills, to draw firefighters away from his arsonist work.

Orr claims innocence. He believes he is the victim of a corrupt judicial system and defends his book by stating, “The character of Aaron Styles was a composite of arsonists I arrested.” On June 25, 1998, he was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder from a 1984 hardware store fire. When asked to be sentenced to death, the jury deadlocked
and the judge sentenced Orr to life plus 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

People trusted John Orr to stop fires when he was actually the one starting them. Some people look at God in the same way. They believe the Lord is cruelly feeding the fires of hell to eternally torture sinners. But how does the Bible describe God? “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live … ’” (Ezekiel 33:11). Our God is compassionate and has done everything possible to stop the fire that will someday consume all sin.

For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
- Lamentations 3:33

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