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Former firefighter sentenced to state prison for setting fires

Published May 22. 2013 05:03PM

A former firefighter was sentenced to a state prison term on Tuesday in Carbon County court after previously pleading guilty to setting various fires in the Franklin and East Penn townships area in 2011.

Todd Alan Deem II, 21, of Lehighton, was sentenced by Judge Joseph J. Matika to serve a total of 30 to 108 months in a state correctional institution. The sentence was imposed on three counts of arson, two counts of malicious burning of forestry, and one count of risking a catastrophe.

He must also make restitution for damages caused by the fires totaling $93,507.64 to various victims.

He was charged by a state police fire marshal and forestry agents with setting a barn and several brush fires. A former firefighter, he would set the fires then respond to some of them as a firefighter to extinguish them.

He told investigators he was "stressed out" and set the fires to relieve the stress.

He admitted setting a barn on fire in East Penn Township on April 10, 2011, which was destroyed. That fire caused over $80,000 in damages to the property of William H. Johnson. At the time of the guilty plea, entered on Sept. 10, 2012, Johnson told Matika, "He grew up across the road from the barn. I don't know why he did it."

Yesterday attorney Kent Watkins, of St. Clair and court-appointed counsel, told Matika that Deen had learning disabilities as a youth.

When asked by Matika if he wanted to say anything to the court, Deem said, "I'm looking for anyway to get out. I feel it's not helping me in jail."

Asked why he set the fires, Deem responded, "I don't know why."

Assistant District Attorney Jean A. Engler said the case had serious consequences to it. She said the fires Deem set put the life and safety of volunteer firemen in jeopardy as they responded to the fires.

Deem is serving a four- to 12-month prison term imposed in Schuylkill County in January for fires he set in West Penn Township. Matika ruled his sentence would run consecutive to the Schuylkill sentence.

Matika also ordered Deem to render a total of 300 hours of community service when released on parole, get both a drug and alcohol and mental health evaluations and follow any recommendations for treatment, have no contact with any of his victims, and supply a DNA sample. He was given credit for a total of 365 days spent in prison to date on the charges.

Deem has been held in the Luzerne County prison in Wilkes-Barre since shortly after his arrest due to security reasons, it was noted. He will now be transferred to a state prison.

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