Man facing arson charges for Schuylkill County blaze

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NORWEGIAN TOWNSHIP, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Two pets are dead, a man is in prison and his neighbor lost everything. That man is being charged for arson after police say he caused a massive fire in Schuylkill County last night.

“My cousin lived in that house, Johnny Jefferson. My aunt and uncle lived there and my mom was raised on the other half. My grandparents lived there,” said Lisa Chalinsky.

A house that generations lived in… charred. Chalinsky came by her cousin’s house Thursday to see it for herself. That cousin being John Jefferson, the man who police say started the fire intentionally.

“I don’t know I just lost contact and just really never bothered,” she said.

The flames spread to the house next door, nearly taking Jefferson’s neighbor’s life.

“He was standing on the roof screaming and I saw the smoke coming out and he was calling for his dog to come out, that was inside. He had the one on the roof and I realized he wasn’t going to get off,” said Charles Pretti.

Pretti heard commotion Wednesday night and came to the rescue. He says he grabbed his work ladder and put it to the side of the building.

“I basically coaxed him to come down off the roof. He didn’t want to come down, he wanted to get his dog, but I know him personally and I said ‘Chris, you gotta get off the roof, it’s your life,’ and he finally agreed to come down,” Pretti said.

It took crews hours to put out the fire on the 300 block of Main Street. Mother Nature was working against them.

“When we got down here, both homes were fully engulfed. The biggest problem with us was the wind. It was blowing so much you couldn’t even see two feet in front of you,” said Bill Holley, a volunteer firefighter.

Jefferson has multiple charges coming his way including several arson-related offenses, recklessly endangering another person, criminal mischief and more.

Chalinsky says if her aunt and uncle were still alive, they’d be distraught.

“They’d be devastated, they would be,” Chalinsky said.

Jefferson’s bail was set for $100,000. Police say he wasn’t able to pay it so he will remain in the Schuylkill County prison.

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