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Lehighton man charged with setting sister's house on fire

Published January 31. 2013 05:02PM

Police have charged a 44-year-old Lehighton man with deliberately starting one of two fires which broke out in the borough Wednesday morning.

Russell Young, of 231 Carbon St., was charged by Lehighton Police Officer Brian Biechy with setting the rear porch of his sister's house at 357 North Third St. on fire.

The alleged arson incident occurred while firefighters were battling a fire a block away at Young's Carbon Street address, where he resides with his mother, Marian. No charges were filed against him regarding the Carbon Street fire, but that investigation is continuing. Lehighton Assistant Fire Chief Pat Mriss requested that a state police fire marshal assist him and Lehighton police in the investigation into the Carbon Street fire.

The fire marshal was at the scene yesterday afternoon.

Young was arraigned yesterday before District Judge Edward Lewis of Jim Thorpe and committed to the Carbon County Correctional Facility in lieu of $200,000 straight bail.

He has been charged with four counts of arson: danger of death or bodily injury; inhabited building or structure; recklessly endangering persons; and property damage excess of $5,000.

The fire at the Third Street address was extinguished by Franklin Township Police Chief Thomas Beltz.

Young was located by Nesquehoning Police Officer Tim Wuttke in the back yard of the Third Street residence. Wuttke took him into custody.

Beltz and Wuttke were at the scene because Lehighton police officers were helping to investigate the Carbon Street fire.

The events unfolded at about 7 a.m. when neighbors at 229 Carbon St. awoke and found their home filled with smoke. They immediately phoned 9-1-1, the Carbon County Telecommunications Commission.

Firefighters found flames on the first floor of the Young residence and smoke pouring out from all sides of the structure. The Lehighton, Franklin Township, and Mahoning Valley Fire Departments responded.

Meanwhile, a call was received at 7:05 a.m. at the Comm Center by the resident of 337 N. Third St., who stated there was an individual attempting to gain entrance at that address.

Beltz and Wuttke responded to this call. The affidavit states, "Officer Wuttke stated that there was a fire on scene on the back porch area and that they had one male in custody."

The East Penn Fire Department was dispatched to the Third Street address. Biechy also proceeded to the scene.

The affidavit reads, "In the process of being taken into custody, the defendant was witnessed throwing a pack of matches which he was holding. The matches were recovered by officers on scene and are similar to the matches located and recovered on the back porch area. Also noticed by Chief Beltz was an odor of lighter fluid on the defendant."

It continues, "Upon inspection of the back porch area of 358 N. Third St., there was a strong odor of lighter fluid in the immediate area and in the immediate area of the fire, which Chief Beltz extinguished. This officer located several burnt matches.

"The matches were found placed by each one of the wooden porch supports as well as the man door leading from the porch to the interior of the residence. Found on the porch near the man door were two plastic containers which smelled of lighter fluid and a scepter which the victim stated did not belong to her."

Also assisting at both fire scenes were officers from the Mahoning Township Police Department and Lehighton fire police.

A hearing for Young has tentatively been scheduled for 4 p.m. on Feb. 6 before District Judge Lewis.

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