Firefighter signs plea deal ahead of arson trial

The trial for one of three area firefighters accused of arson was canceled Monday when he entered into a plea agreement.

Kenneth Moore, 20, of Lanse, was also charged with burglary, criminal conspiracy, reckless burning, possessing explosive or incendiary material, recklessly endangering another person and several related charges in relation to a fire on Oct. 9 in Chester Hill.

Moore pleaded guilty ahead of his trial, which was scheduled for Monday in Clearfield County Court. He will be sentenced within 60 days.

His co-defendants, Hunter Thomas Harris, 22, of Philipsburg, and Samuel Wilbur Connor V, 20, of Howard, face similar charges. They have also reached plea agreements in their cases and are scheduled to be sentenced in September.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, the chief of the Chester Hill Fire Department asked police to investigate a fire in a two-story wood frame home owned by Patrick and James Coval, of Philipsburg, at 309 Ida St.

This investigation revealed that the fire started inside a wood-frame shed addition attached to the back of the home. The fire spread up the exterior rear of the home and into the residence. The home was unoccupied at the time of the fire.

It was determined the cause of the fire was a direct flame deliberately used on combustible materials within the shed.

Harris, Connor and Moore were interviewed regarding the fire on Oct. 26. The three men provided independent statements after receiving their Miranda warnings. Their confessions were consistent with each other and with the damage and evidence at the scene.

They explained they were at the Hope Fire Station in Philipsburg in the early morning hours of Oct. 9. They discussed setting a fire in the vacant home so they could respond with their fire company that often provides aid to the Chester Hill Fire Department.

They gathered hay, a cardboard toilet paper roll, a paper wrapper from a new toilet paper roll and a paper plate to use as a fuel package for ignition, they told police. Moore drove to the area and dropped off Harris and Connor. Harris placed the homemade fuel package inside an opening of the wood-frame shed. Harris used a lighter that he obtained from Moore’s vehicle to ignite the fuel package, they said. Harris and Connor then met back with Moore in the parking lot of Hi-Way Pizza. They returned to the fire station in Philipsburg.

Approximately 15 minutes later, the fire company was dispatched by Centre County 911 for a structure fire in Chester Hill borough. The three men then responded back to the scene with the fire company where they helped put out the fire.