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The Times
  • Ex-McConnellsville fire chief admits causing blaze

  • The former McConnellsville fire chief admitted this week to starting a May 10 fire at an unoccupied residence during an attempt to steal copper wiring, prosecutors said.
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  • The former McConnellsville fire chief admitted this week to starting a May 10 fire at an unoccupied residence during an attempt to steal copper wiring, prosecutors said.
    Howard Roache, 35, pleaded guilty Monday in Oneida County Court to felony charges of fourth-degree arson and fourth-degree grand larceny.
    He faces six months in the Oneida County jail and five years of probation when he is sentenced by Judge Barry M. Donalty on Feb. 13, prosecutors said.
    During his plea, Roache explained that he was using a torch to burn the outer covering off of copper wire in the rural Vienna home at 8177 Yager Road in order to obtain scrap metal, Assistant District Attorney Robert Bauer said.
    "And that's apparently when the fire got away from him to burn the building down," Bauer said.
    Nobody was living in the seasonal home at the time, but an outdoor camera set up by the property owner captured images of Roache at the scene of the fire, state police have previously said.
    Roache also pleaded guilty Monday to stealing firefighter emergency pagers from the volunteer McConnellsville Fire Department and selling them to another fire department without turning over the proceeds to his fire department, Bauer said. Additionally, Roache admitted that he used some of the department's funds to remodel his home basement.
    Roache will be required to pay back $1,766 to the fire department and will have to pay a still undetermined amount of restitution for the destroyed home, Bauer said. With an arson conviction, Roache will now be prohibited by law from any future involvement in fire services.
    Roache's attorney, Norman Deep, declined to comment on the case Wednesday.
    Another McConnellsville firefighter – James Goold, 54 – was also arrested at the time in connection to an earlier Feb. 2 blaze at an abandoned building in the town of Annsville. Goold's charges are still pending.
    At the time of their arrests, state police said both Roache and Goold were under investigation for at least three other suspicious local fires. On Wednesday, prosecutors declined to say whether Roach has been linked to any other fires.
    "We continue to investigate a handful of fires that occurred in that area during the first half of 2013," Bauer said.
    Follow @OD_LaDuca on Twitter or call him at 792-5037.

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