Pa. Junior Firefighter Charged in Arson Fire

Three Shamokin youths, including a junior firefighter, were charged with arson related to Sunday afternoon's fire that damaged an old barn and threatened nearby buildings.


SHAMOKIN, Pa. --

Jonathan Kindle, 16, James Snyder Jr., 14, and Zeth Harvey, 13, were charged by Shamokin Police patrolman Ray Siko, the city's arson investigator, with felony charges of arson and related offenses endangering persons, arson and related offenses endangering property, arson of an unoccupied building, risking a catastrophe, criminal attempt to commit arson, criminal conspiracy to commit arson and criminal mischief.

They were also charged with misdemeanor counts of arson-failing to report a dangerous fire and disorderly conduct, and summary offenses of arson-dangerous burning and criminal trespass.

Kindle and Snyder are in custody at Northwestern Academy, while Harvey was released to the custody of his parents, police said.

After consultation with Northumberland County Juvenile Court Services, police, citing the severity of the charges and threat to public safety, released the names of the suspects despite their ages, and The News-Item is publishing them based on the same considerations.

The two-story barn, once used as a horse stable, is located behind homes on the 100 block of East Sunbury Street (Route 61) near the S-curve, not far from the Shamokin News Agency on Orange Street and First United Methodist Church.

When firefighters arrived, the rear of the building was fully involved, and the "Squrt" apparatus on the Independence Fire Company truck was used to attack the flames from above. Firefighters from the city and Coal Township responded.

Heat from the fire, which was reported at 4:16 p.m. and brought under control about 4:45 p.m., melted siding and broke some windows on neighboring structures.

Shamokin City Police Chief Edward Griffiths gave credit to Siko and other members of his force for the timely arrests.

"While the fire was going on, our officers, Cpl. John Brown and Patrolmen William Zalinski and Shane Mowery, were gathering information at the scene. Within 45 minutes, we had a name and, by 6 p.m. we had two individuals at our station conducting interviews," Griffiths said. "I also have to give credit to the fire department officials for sharing information with us."

According to the police report, as firefighters were battling the blaze, Mowery and Zalinski were approached by Harvey and his father. The younger Harvey told police he was at the building with the two other boys when he saw one of them pull out a lighter and hand it to the other, who then ignited a piece of paper and threw it against the wall of the building, according to police.

The officers were then approached by citizen Angie Arnold, who showed them a picture she took of Kinder and Harvey talking in an alleyway. She told police the picture was taken after one of the youths was overheard making the statement, "You set the papers on fire."

Police identified Kinder from the picture and he was taken to the station for questioning, with his parents present, according to Siko's report. As this was going on, Snyder allegedly responded to the fire as a member of the Liberty Fire Company's junior firefighter program, and was standing near the engine when approached by authorities.

Police said he was initially irate when asked by police to accompany them to the station.

"I didn't do anything," he yelled, according to the report. "I'm here helping and I'm getting in trouble."

At the station, Harvey told police Snyder shouted instructions to him to keep a lookout for anyone, police said.

At that point, Harvey told police it was Snyder who pulled the lighter from his pocket and handed it to Kindle, who lit the papers and threw them. When the three of them saw flames, they ran away. Following the incident, Kindle approached Harvey and told him, "If you don't say anything, no one will ever know," according to Siko's report.

Police said Kindle initially denied any involvement, but when told authorities had information to the contrary, he began to cry and admitted to setting the fire.

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