Firefighter Pleads Guilty To Setting Fires For Practice

BANGOR, Maine (AP) -- A volunteer firefighter from Hudson has pleaded guilty in Penobscot County Superior Court to setting two vacant buildings on fire so he could hone his skills in putting them out.

Charles E. St. Lawrence, 19, pleaded guilty on Wednedsay to two counts of arson. He faces six years in prison with all but nine months suspended under a plea agreement betwen his attorny and Depurty District Attorney Michael Roberts.

St. Lawrence joined the volunteer fire department in Hudson, about 15 miles north of Bangor, when he was 14. He admitted setting two fires in April 2004 and October 2003 as well as other fires before he turned 18, Roberts said.

A sentencing date has not been set. He faces a maximum sentence for Class A arson is 40 years and a fine of up to $50,000 per count.

Superior Court Justice S. Kirk Studstrup ordered St. Lawrence to undergo a psychological evaluation before scheduling his sentencing.

``I assume no person was in either structure and that neither fire endangered other structures,'' the judge said. ``If either of those were present, I'm not certain I would accept the plea agreement.''

Roberts said that both buildings were empty, no other structures were in jeopardy, and one firefighter suffered minor injuries fighting one of the fires.

He also said that St. Lawrence did not gain financially from the fires.

The fire in October gutted a Hudson Road home and destroyed a nearby barn and shed. Fire department personnel from Glenburn, Bradford, Kenduskeag and Corinth assisted Hudson firefighters. Crews were on the scene for 13 hours.

The second fire destroyed a small cabin on the Old County Road in April.