New York Fire Chief Resigns After Past Arson is Revealed

The Evans Mills fire chief has resigned the position but it's unclear whether he remains on the department.

The Watertown Daily Times says that Howard O'Brien resigned on Friday.

The resignation came after the Times reported Thursday that O'Brien had been convicted of third-degree arson when he was 17 in 1987.

The Evans Mills Fire District's Board of Commissioners accepted O'Brien's resignation Friday evening and appointed assistant chief Kevin Hall as the interim chief, the Times reported. However it isn't know whether O'Brien remains on the department as a firefighter.

In a letter to the board, O'Brien said that as a result of the negative publicity in the Times and other media, he had been advised that he should resign.

The revelation about O'Brien's background came after the arrest of one of his department members for arson.

Twenty-eight year old Thomas Real was arrested for allegedly setting the December 14th fire that destroyed a barn and 70 head of cattle near Evans Mills.

Real had been a member of the department since last fall. A recent arrest for sexual abuse allegedly involving a 7 year old girl was hidden from the department during Real's background check.

In O'Brien's case, he was convicted in 1987 of setting fire to a barn in Lorraine and a vacant house near Pierrepont Manor, the Times reported.

O'Brien was 17 at the time and was granted youthful offender status.

O'Brien told the Times that while he pleaded guilty to the arsons, that doesn't mean he admits committing them. He cited other circumstances of the case leading to his guilty plea which he declined to discuss.