SHAMOKIN - A 50-year-old man arrested last month for stealing copper wire and breaking into a downtown business has been charged with three felony offenses in connection with a Jan. 24 fire at the corner of North Shamokin and Sunbury streets across the street from his apartment.

Kevin Kish, of 704 N. Shamokin St., Apt. 1, faces charges of burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespass relating to the 4:24 a.m. fire that caused extensive damage to the first floor of a vacant property at 725 N. Shamokin St.

Kish has not been charged with arson because he allegedly didn't intentionally set the fire, which was ignited by a lit cigarette, police said.

Information from Kish's cell mate at Northumberland County Prison led to the charges.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Patrolman and City Fire Investigator Raymond Siko II, Kish entered the brick building in an attempt to steal items when a cigarette he was smoking near the front door fell onto the floor near a couch, causing the piece of furniture and floor to catch fire inside the three-story structure that was under renovation.

Shannon Taylor, a bartender at the Sons of the Italy at Shamokin and Commerce streets who reported the fire after closing the club, told police she spotted a male and two females standing near a telephone pole on the southeast corner of 725 N. Shamokin St. Taylor said when she began walking north on Shamokin Street toward Sunbury Street, the male left the area.

Burglary charges

On Feb. 5, Kish and Robert A. Zellers III, 20, of 313 State Route 61, Coal Township, were charged by Shamokin police with two felony counts each of burglary, criminal trespass and conspiracy to commit burglary, and a misdemeanor of loitering and prowling at night in connection with the theft of copper wire from 169 N. Grant St. and a burglary at Nature's Health Food Store, 133-135 E. Independence St.

The defendants, who were apprehended by police in the basement of Nature's Health Food Store while allegedly committing the burglary during the early morning hours of Feb. 5, waived their rights to a preliminary hearing on the charges Feb. 12 before Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III.

While at the hearing, Siko was informed that Zellers wanted to speak to him about Kish's involvement in the Jan. 24 fire.

Zellers, who was Kish's cell mate, told Siko that Kish was walking in circles around his cell when Zellers asked him what was wrong. Zellers said Kish told him he was scared about a fire on Sunbury Street. Kish said he was inside 725 N. Shamokin St. and found it to be a nice apartment containing furniture and large cardboard tubes. When Zellers asked Kish why he was scared, Kish told him he started a fire in the building.

About 25 minutes later, Siko interviewed Kish, who initially denied ever being inside 725 N. Shamokin St. before later putting his head down and admitted being there.

Kish told the officer that he entered the building during the early morning hours of Jan. 24 through a rear basement door. Once inside, Kish said he began looking for items to steal so he could scrap them.

Kish said he then went to the first floor, where he saw a mattress on the floor in one of the rooms, a bathroom with a cabinet and a kitchen area with a table and chairs.

Lit cigarette

After sitting down on a couch in one of the rooms near the front door of the building facing Shamokin Street, Kish said he lit a cigarette while admiring the interior of the property. Kish said the end of his cigarette fell off, landed on the floor and began burning. Kish said he then stepped on the end of the cigarette.

Kish told police it was possible part of the cigarette may have fallen onto one of the couch cushions. Kish said he did not know for sure if the cigarette was completely out.

The defendant said he then got nervous and left the building through the front door before walking down the street to his apartment, police said.

When asked if he was concerned that the cigarette may have still been burning, Kish shrugged his shoulders and didn't answer, police said.

Kish said he knew the building was owned by someone else.

When Siko explained to him that lives were put in jeopardy because of the fire, Kish looked at the floor and did not reply.

Siko said Zellers and Siko waived their Miranda rights and agreed to speak with the officer without the presence of an attorney.

Kish was released from the county prison on the day of his preliminary hearing when Gembic reduced his bail on the burglary charges from $10,000 cash to unsecured, which means he did not have to post any monetary bail. Kish, who remains free and has not yet been arraigned on the new charges involving the fire, is on bail supervision.

Zellers was recommitted to the county jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail after waiving his hearing last month. But the defendant is now free after posting bail Feb. 28.