Crime

Osceola Mills firefighter sentenced in arson

An Osceola Mills firefighter who admitted he started a fire for an adrenaline rush pleaded guilty Monday in Clearfield County Court.

Justin Michael Varner, 23, pleaded guilty to arson-danger of death or bodily injury, arson-intent to destroy unoccupied building, reckless burning or exploding, burglary, possessing explosives, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, recklessly endangering another person and failure to control/duty.

Judge Paul E. Cherry sentenced him to two to five years in state prison.

Varner was a member of the Columbia Fire Company in Osceola Mills when he started the fire on Sept. 30.

Prior to sentencing, Varner addressed the court apologizing to the community and to the fire company for his actions.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, in an interview with police, Varner admitted he was walking home from the fire company that night and thinking that they hadn’t had a fire in a long time.

Varner said he thought the Hertlein Building was abandoned and considered it an eyesore. He found an unsecured door, walked in and lit a pile of cardboard on fire with a road flare. He said he then went home.

Later he walked back near the building while talking on the phone with another firefighter. He said he smelled smoke and thought it was coming from the Hertlein Building. The other firefighter arrived on the scene and they investigated it together.

After they opened the door and saw flames, the other firefighter called 911. Varner went to the fire station and then returned with the other firefighters to put out the blaze.

In a separate theft case, Varner’s probation was revoked. He was sentenced to 30 days to one year in state prison. The revocation sentence will run concurrent with the arson case sentence.

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