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Posted March 31, 2006 EST

Home >  US Fire / Rescue News >  State News >  Washington
Ex Firefighter Pleads Guilty To District 10 Arson
United States (Washington) - A former volunteer firefighter was sentenced to more than two years in prison Thursday after he pleaded guilty to setting a series of fires in and around the fire district where he served. Ira John English, 29, was an active volunteer with Whatcom County Fire District No. 10 until the day of his arrest in December 2005. Investigators said English was among the district firefighters who responded to the suspicious fires.

District 10 roughly covers the area along Yew Street between Lakeway Drive and Samish Way.

Defense Attorney Jeff Lustick said his client entered guilty pleas on three counts of second-degree arson, two counts of reckless burning and one count of malicious mischief. English had originally faced 11 charges, including two counts of first-degree arson, and conviction on those two counts could have sent him to prison for 12 years or more, Lustick said.

Instead, he was sentenced to 25 months in prison. Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Steven Mura also ordered English to pay restitution of $317,000, representing the estimated damage done.

Once he gets out of prison and finds work, English will have to pay off that amount at $100 per month, Lustick said.

Investigators who questioned English after his arrest said he might have been responsible for as many as 20 fires set between November 2002 and September 2004, and had admitted setting 11 of them.

The fires were generally set with road flares left at the scene, and the arsonist seemed to choose empty targets such as parked cars, grassy fields, storage buildings and homes under construction. But one wildfire along Samish Way threatened homes in Lake Padden Estates for a time.

After his client's initial not-guilty plea last December, Lustick suggested that English's mental state might have induced him to confess to crimes he had not committed.

On Thursday, Lustick said he has no doubt that English set some of the fires.

"The fires he pled guilty to are fires that he set," Lustick said.

But Lustick said he continues to believe that some of English's confessions may have been false, and someone else could be responsible.

Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo doesn't plan to reopen those arson cases.

"We were confident when we charged him with those crimes that he did them," Elfo said. "He confessed to them. He gave details to them."

Written by The Bellingham Herald

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