CLEARFIELD – A Cherry Tree man accused of setting two wildfires in Burnside Borough waived his right to a preliminary hearing during Centralized Court on Wednesday at the Clearfield County Jail.
Troy Michael Solley Jr., 19, of Cherry Tree has been charged with two counts each of reckless burning or exploding, risking catastrophe and failure to control; one count of dangerous burning; and four counts of statement under penalty, according to online court documents. His bail is currently set at $25,000 unsecured.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, on the evening of April 27, Ryan R. Ling, a district forester with the Moshannon State Forest, received information about a wildfire in Burnside Borough. Ling was not on duty at the time and Forest Fire Patrolman Paul Hense advised he would respond to the wildfire to suppress and complete a report.
Prior to Hense’s arrival at the scene, Clearfield County 9-1-1 reported a second wildfire in the same general area as the first one. Upon Hense’s arrival at the scene, he was notified that a witness had allegedly observed someone throw burning debris from a moving vehicle in the area of one of the wildfires.
Due to the suspicious nature of the wildfires, Hense requested a trooper from the state police at Punxsutawney. Trooper Chad Seger and Hense collected information from emergency responders and the witness at the scene. The witness was able to provide a description of the suspect vehicle, which was confirmed by the assistant fire chief of the Burnside Fire Department.
Further, Seger and Hense were advised the suspect was Solley, a member of the Burnside Fire Department and a trained wetland firefighter. The suspect vehicle was also owned by Solley’s father, who was working out-of-town at the time.
Seger and Hense subsequently went to Solley’s home and interviewed him about the wildfires. Solley denied any involvement in a sworn and written statement to Seger.
On April 28, Hense and Forest Fire Patrolman Jeremy Hamilton investigated the origin and cause of the wildfires. Hamilton concluded that one wildfire was definitely arson; however, the other couldn’t be thoroughly investigated due to extensive suppression action.
On May 13, Ling and Bureau of Forestry Special Investigator Terry Smith of the Division of Fire Protection interviewed Solley at the Harmony Area High School. Smith and Ling collected a voluntary written statement from Solley, who denied any involvement in either wildfire.
On May 21, Solley went to the Moshannon State Forest’s District Office in Penfield for a third interview about the wildfires. While interviewing Solley, investigators found it evident that he was involved with the wildfires. Solley, however, provided investigators with a third false statement.
Through the remainder of the interview, Solley retracted his previous false statements and provided written statements in which he confessed to being involved with setting both wildfires.