CLEARFIELD – A former Osceola Mills firefighter charged with arson received a state prison sentence Monday during colloquy court.
Justin Michael Varner, 23, was sentenced to two to five years in state prison by Judge Paul E. Cherry after he pleaded guilty to arson-danger of death or bodily injury, arson-intent to destroy unoccupied building, reckless burning or exploding, burglary, possessing explosives, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, recklessly endangering another person and failure to control/duty. He must pay over $3,800 in restitution.
When asked if he wanted to say anything, Varner apologized “to the community and the Osceola Mills Fire Company for my actions.”
Varner, who was on probation at the time of the incident, was also sentenced to 30 days to one year in prison for violating that probation.
His attorney, Douglas Campbell, argued that the revocation was due to the new charges and asked Cherry to run the sentences together. Although Cherry said it “wasn’t right” that it was part of the plea agreement to do this, he did state that the sentences will run concurrent with each other.
According to a press release from District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., on Sept. 30, at approximately 12:45 am, a commercial building fire was reported at the Hertlein building on Lingle Street, in Osceola Mills.
An investigation determined the fire to be arson and that Varner, a member of the Columbia Fire Company, was responsible.
In an interview with police, Varner said he was walking home when he realized the fire company hadn’t had a fire for some time. Because he thought the Hertlein building was an eye sore in the community, he found an open door, walked in and lit a pile of cardboard on fire. Varner then shut the door and returned to his residence.
After a period of time, Varner decided to take a walk. While walking down the street, Varner informed an officer with the fire company that the building was on fire. The officer responded to the building with Varner and discovered the fire. This officer immediately called 911. Varner then responded with the fire company to assist in extinguishing the blaze.
Shaw noted in the release, that our area relies on volunteer firefighters and the business of fighting fires is extremely dangerous. This fire put the lives of these volunteers in danger and this type of crime “will not be tolerated,” he said.