Jeannette police say Christopher A. Jones and Jeffrey A. Tierney set their first fire Aug. 29, 2008, torching a set of vacant houses that were later bulldozed.
That fire was just the beginning of a string of 20 arsons in Jeannette that occurred over four years, all linked to a group of five men and a teenage boy that included Mr. Tierney, 23, and Mr. Jones, 22.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Jeannette police Wednesday announced the arrest of the six, charging them in connection with nine fires, and that investigators are looking at 11 arson cases.
"Our city can rest a little bit easier now, and especially I can finally rest for a change," said police Chief Brad Shepler.
Also charged were Richard A. Adair Jr., 27; Roger W. Adair, 26; John R. Horne, 21, and a 17-year-old authorities declined to name because he is a juvenile. All are charged with arson, criminal conspiracy and criminal trespassing.
Mr. Tierney and Roger Adair are charged with aggravated assault for a fire set Feb. 3 at 324 Chestnut St. that injured firefighter Jim Swartz, who was cut in the neck by flying glass.
The ATF approached the Jeannette police department in late February after the city saw a slew of fires starting in May 2011. There were eight fires set in the same neighborhood over the latter half of 2011 and four set in the first two months of this year. Besides taxing an already financially stretched city, the fires raised fears among residents that their homes would be targeted next.
There was also concern that the arsonists were "ratcheting up" their stunts, moving from dilapidated, vacant structures to ones that people call home. On Feb. 12, at a fire on North Third Street, two boys, ages 12 and 14, were playing video games in an upstairs room, unaware that someone had set the basement of the home ablaze. A neighbor saw smoke and alerted the boys, who escaped unharmed. No one has been arrested in that fire.
Don Robinson, an assistant special agent in charge based in Philadelphia, declined to comment on specifically what ATF agents did or what they learned in their investigation, but said evidence collected by investigators, as well as interviews, linked the 11 fires.
The last fire was set early March 28. Special Agent Robinson said he believed the fires stopped because investigators began conducting interviews and that word of the investigation got back to those involved.
All of those arrested admitted to setting some of the fires or were implicated by someone else, according to the criminal complaints.
Moriah Balingit: email@example.com or 412-263-2533. First Published September 20, 2012 4:00 AM