Troy detective, fire investigator honored for bringing down arsonist

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published December 9, 2021






TROY — Two Troy first responders are being recognized by the International Association of Arson Investigators for their role in bringing a serial arsonist to justice.

Detective Patrick Dyjewski of the Troy Police Department and Assistant Chief Paul Firth of the Troy Fire Department, who was a lieutenant at the time of the investigation, were part of an interdepartmental effort to identify and arrest a suspect who had been setting fires in several communities, including Troy and Royal Oak.

“Royal Oak was experiencing some arsons in their north part of the city, south of 14 Mile, along the Rochester Road corridor,” explained Dyjewski. “Some even happened near where I grew up. We ended up having a suspicious fire in a box truck here in Troy. I got called in by Lt. Firth, and the business owner (who owned the truck) had surveillance cameras who caught someone intentionally setting the truck on fire.”

Each played a vital role alongside other firefighters and police officers in resolving the case.

“There’s always gray areas, but the Fire Department investigates the scene and origin. We also look at homing in on how it was started and think it through. The police then take over and look at possible suspects,” said Firth. “The owner (of the box truck) showed us the surveillance video, so it was a unique case where we knew it was arson immediately.”

“We have a consortium of departments including Royal Oak, Bloomfield Township and Birmingham officers working on the case,” Dyjewski added. “We were able to determine that there was a suspect who had been at a local bar. He liked to set these fires to close proximity to where he was staying at during the times of each fire. We also determined that he matched the descriptions of suspects at other fires. We confronted him with the video evidence, and he admitted he set the fires.”

The suspect, Thomas Manes, was convicted on 14 counts, including arson, breaking and entering, and weapons charges. The fires took place between 2017 and 2019.

“As far as motive, I think he was lighting them for the thrill of it,” said Dyjewski. “It was his way of relieving some sort of psychological pressure. It was a coping mechanism. We were able to connect him to at least a half dozen fires in Royal Oak, plus the box truck fire in Troy.”

Both stressed that the arrest was a group effort and there were many other officers and firefighters who worked to conclude the case.

“Royal Oak did a lot. Our police and Fire Department worked with them heavily on this case. We collaborated and went over everything together. Our investigations department did a lot. Everything came together perfectly,” Dyjewski said. “It’s an honor, but at the same time it could have been any of us being recognized. I think it should have been a group award, honestly. We worked together and shared resources. I was the officer in charge, but I’m not one to take credit for everybody’s work, and we all contributed.”

“We knew about the other fires, so we weren’t always aware it was the same person. The Royal Oak officers connected the dots that this guy was now living in an apartment in Troy,” added Firth. “A lot of good people did a lot of good work, and I happened to be one of them.”

Dyjewski went on to say that it was unnerving to see such fires so near where he grew up and that the suspect was even someone he had known of years ago.

“The defendant grew up on the same street as where I grew up,” he said. “I was even familiar with him, since he was two years younger than me. One of the fires was a garage fire near my parents’ house, and I could smell the smoke after the fire when I came to visit them.”

Both men added that they were very appreciative of being recognized for their work.

“I feel very good that we have somebody who is not able to light any more fires,” remarked Firth. “Me and Officer Dyjewski were aware of the other fires. We had video of someone setting the vehicle on fire. I only had the one fire to look at, so I’m a little humbled by getting the award. Other fire investigators would have done the same thing, and because of the efforts of multiple agencies, this individual was convicted.”