Two men charged with setting series of dumpster fires in Waynesboro during summer’s burn ban

26 October 2023- It appears that a series of fireworks, smoke bombs, or some other incendiary devices were used to set off a series of dumpster fires around Waynesboro earlier this year. Maxwell Dominic Alexander and Ryan Thomas Phelps are both charged with felony causing catastrophe, misdemeanor corruption of a minor, and misdemeanor criminal mischief. Both Alexander and Phelps are free on unsecured bails of $15,000.

Just around 2am on June 12th, Waynesboro PD and Washington Township as well as multiple fire companies were dispatched to a series of dumpster fires around the Waynesboro area. These fires mainly happened behind or adjacent to businesses but one was also located at the ballfields off State Hill Road in the borough. Through a number of security camera videos taken by businesses affected, police were able to identify a vehicle color and make, which was later narrowed down using automated license plate reader. WTPD were then dispatched to the home of the owner of the vehicle.

It should be noted that these fires all occurred on one night, June 12th, which was in the middle of a Washington Township burn ban as well as numerous other local burn bans due to dry conditions. That burn ban lasted from 6/6/23 to 6/22/23. Some of the fires were hot enough, police say, to burn the paint off the dumpsters.

WTPD spoke to the son in law of the vehicle’s owner at their home on Longwood Drive in Waynesboro. After a number of questions, it was allegedly revealed that the vehicle was driven by Ryan Phelps the night of the incidents.

Phelps later came into WTPD offices to speak with police. Around 2:30pm on June 13th, police interviewed Phelps, with them initially asking whether the latter knew why they asked for him to come in. Phelps reportedly answered, “yeah, the fires”. Through a series of questions, police and Phelps allegedly traced through the series of fires, with the accused allegedly saying he was at these fires with “Max”, later determined to be Maxwell Alexander, and a juvenile.

Phelps explained the incidents as being started by fireworks, with the group allegedly noticing “how big the fires were”, subsequently stopping and going home.

Over the course of the investigation, “Max” was found to be Maxwell Alexander, with him being interviewed a number of days later. Eventually signing a waiver form to be interviewed, Alexander allegedly told police “he didn’t touch anything and that both of them did”. During the interview Alexander allegedly said he thought they were going to be setting smoke bombs or smaller fireworks off in a field or something small but that ended up changing to dumpsters. Alexander, as well, walked through the series of fires with police as well as confirmed the vehicle used in all of them.

Ryan Phelps and Maxwell Alexander are free on unsecured bails of $15,000. The unnamed minor has not been charged as an adult and thus his information is not made available. Phelps and Alexander’s next court dates are set for October 31st.

Sources: Docket Number: MJ-39302-CR-0000413-2023, Incident No.: WTPD202305391, Docket Number: MJ-39302-CR-0000412-2023, Incident No.: WTPD202305391