Pa. Firefighter Allegedly Torches Firehouses

A volunteer fireman with Eldred Township and Borough was sent to McKean County Jail Monday night on a half-million-dollar bail for arson fires at both fire departments.

Scott McClain, 38, of 10 Slack Hollow, Eldred, is charged with arson, a first-degree felony; arson endangering property, a second-degree felony; and two counts of criminal mischief, third-degree felonies; all for an alleged arson at the Eldred Township Volunteer Fire Department Aug. 6.

For a fire at the Eldred Borough Volunteer Fire Department early Monday, he's charged with arson, a first-degree felony; arson endangering property, a second-degree felony; and criminal mischief, a third-degree felony.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, at 12:30 a.m. Monday, volunteers and state police responded to a structure fire at the Eldred Borough Firehall at 6 Pratt St. Investigators determined that McClain had gone into the men's bathroom and ignited rolls of bathroom tissue in the storage closet. The fire caused more than $5,000 in damage to the structure.

Police interviewed the fire chief, Kevin Cummings, and firemen, and were able to determine that two people had been at the firehall shortly before the fire was discovered. Examination of video tapes confirmed what the firefighters told police. The two people were interviewed.

During the interview, McClain told police that he "had been upset with the fire department over his wife being served with a private complaint for a bad check she had given" the fire department. He confessed to police that he retaliated by setting the bathroom on fire, the court records read.

He then confessed to police that the fire at the Eldred Township fire department at 3289 Route 446, Eldred, in August had also been set in retaliation for another bad check case he and his wife were facing, according to court records.

The blaze in August began at 1:15 a.m. at the township's second station, which is located in front of the now-closed Ethan Allen plant. A passerby had called in the alarm.

Police said that fire was caused by McClain igniting a flare and leaving it on the front seat of the fire truck in the fire station. The flare burned the truck, and subsequently the building. The fire caused more than $300,000 in damages to the truck, and more than $10,000 in damages to the building in which it was housed.

Kane-based state police deputy fire marshal Martin Henneman filed the charges late Monday, and McClain was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Bill Todd in Smethport after 10 p.m. McClain was committed to jail in lieu of $250,000 bail in each case, or a total of $500,000.

A preliminary hearing has been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 2 before Todd.

The Eldred community has been on edge for the past several months, as several fires have taken place.

In January, a seasonal residence on Slack Hollow Road burned; in March, a Slack Hollow Road home owned by McClain's father, Dennis, burned, and the garage at the property burned at the beginning of July; also in July, seasonal residence on Carpenter Creek Road in Eldred Township burned.

And on July 20, the Eldred Borough Ambulance Building went up in flames, and both ambulances were lost in the blaze.

State police fire marshals have investigated the blazes. No one has been charged in the incidents.

Republished with permission of The Bradford Era.