© Sputnik / Artur Salimov
A fire brigade chief in a small Russian village is suspected of being behind a series of arson attacks since he took office just over two months ago. The fires were meant to test the efficiency of the brigade, according to rumors.

The bizarre arson case that was made public this week happened in a village called Balyksa in Russia's Khakassia region in western Siberia. The small isolated community of less than 2,000 residents was hit by a string of inexplicable fires in the past two months. That is, they were inexplicable until law enforcement found proof that they were man-made.

But it's the identity of the suspected perpetrator that made the case special. The arsons were pinned on none other than the chief of the village's fire brigade. The 26-year-old man was caught on a CCTV camera when he was setting on fire a wooden garage in late October, the local branch of the news program Vesti reported on Wednesday.

Balyksa is located in the middle of nowhere, with the closest settlement of a similar size about an hour's ride away. So in case of a large fire, the village, where many of the houses are wooden, have nobody to rely on but themselves. Understandably the locals were shocked to learn that the suspect, whose name is Ivan Schneider and who was born in Balyksa, would target them in such a way.

"We are friends with all our neighbors," one of the arson victims told the reporter. "We hired Ivan to fix our roof not long ago. I have no words."

The head of Khakasian firefighters confirmed that one of his subordinates was accused of five cases of arson, committed between August 30 and October 28. The official also said that the suspect was hired despite having a criminal conviction for theft, which poses a question of why the decision to give him the job was taken in the first place.

According to Vesti, Schneider told the police that he wanted to test if his brigade was up to the task. All of the arsons happened in nighttime, when the fire chief was off duty. The crew members are reluctant to speak about their boss, with one saying they wouldn't think that "a black sheep" could be among their ranks.