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Firefighter convicted of property crime after intentional blaze

A former trainee at a Michigan fire department could spend decades in custody after being convicted of intentionally setting a fire. The man, age 36, admitted to lighting the July blaze, which destroyed an apartment building and caused about two dozen residents to be displaced. He apparently ignited the fire because he wanted to make a run with the department. The man received a sentence of five to 35 years in prison for the property crime, and he has been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution to the victims whose homes he burned. He had entered a guilty plea to charges of first-degree arson at a hearing in December.

Authorities report that the man had been accepted into the fire department in late 2012. He apparently ignited a pile of wood mulch that surrounded a natural gas line during the early morning hours. A witness saw the man get into his truck and leave the scene after watching the fire burn for a time. Reports show that the fire burned through the gas line, lighting the natural gas on fire and effectively turning it into a blowtorch.

Although no residents were killed in the incident, many lost all of their possessions in the fire. One woman said she was able to help other residents escape the burning building, because she was returning home from work at the time of the blaze. She testified that she thought the defendant was fully aware of what he was doing when he set the fire.

Criminal defendants who are facing arson charges deserve to have their legal rights protected in court. Michigan criminal defense attorneys may be able to provide additional protection for these defendants. Further, these lawyers may be able to educate defendants about other legal options, providing them with the information they need to make decisions about their cases.

Source: Lansing State Journal, "Michigan firefighter trainee set apartment blaze so he could battle fire" Ken Palmer, Feb. 04, 2014

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