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Summit Hill arsonist pleads guilty to 16 fires

Published January 11. 2010 05:00PM

A Summit Hill man pleaded guilty in Carbon County court to 16 criminal counts stemming from a series of brush fires he set in the county between March and April of 2008.

Frank Duane Swartz, 43, of 220 W. Walnut St., pleaded to one count of arson, two of risking a catastrophe and 13 of penalty for causing fire on or within woodlots, forests or firelands.

President Judge Roger N. Nanovic accepted the pleas and deferred sentencing ordering a presentence investigation (PSI) report be prepared by the adult probation office.

In a plea agreement the DA is recommending that Nanovic impose a state prison term of four to eight years at the time of sentencing.

Swartz admitted he set 16 fires in Lower Towamensing and Franklin townships as well as parts of Parryville. Swartz was a one-time teen volunteer firefighter.

State police Trooper David Klitsch, deputy fire marshal, said investigators were able to trace the fires to Swartz through DNA evidence found on a book of matches.

The DNA of Swartz was on file from a previous arrest on sexual-related charges dating back more than two decades. In 1988 Swartz pleaded guilty to sexual contact with juveniles and served time in the county prison.

The fires did not cause any injuries or property damage but it was noted they were close to homes and businesses and were considered by investigators to be very dangerous.

At one point during the fire setting spree local fire companies were called out three times in one week to respond to fires on the ridge north of Dairy Road in Lower Towamensing and there were five others in the area prior to that.

State police investigators worked with officers of the state Department of Forestry on the case.

Swartz is currently an inmate in the county prison where he has been held since his arrest on the charges, unable to post bail. He was scheduled to go on trial today on all the counts but decided to enter the pleas.

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