Top 10, #4: Arson fires spooked Shamokin early in year
The public was alarmed and firefighters were pushed to the breaking point when seven fires occurred between Jan. 24 and 28 in eastern Northumberland County.
Three of those fires occurred in Shamokin and led to the arrest of two city men. Their cases continue, and further court action is set for later this week and in March.
James L. Neidlinger Jr.
James L. Neidlinger, then 22, was charged Jan. 29 with intentionally setting fires that damaged the former Hardshell Café, 422 N. Shamokin St., Shamokin, and an adjacent building Jan. 24, and 604, 606 and 608 E. Sunbury St., plus an adjacent structure, Jan. 28. He was also charged with setting a fire at 717 N. Shamokin St. Sept. 5, 2012.
According to the criminal complaint, Neidlinger was disturbed by a fight he had with his live-in girlfriend and went for a walk. Police said he told them he contemplated suicide by jumping from the Cameron Bridge, but then thought better of it.
He was still upset while walking near 604 E. Sunbury St. and "something just told me to set it on fire," he told officers.
"He stated, 'I was just trying to get rid of my anger and stress,'" according to the complaint.
He is charged with eight felony counts in connection with the fires. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Friday in Courtroom 1 in the Northumberland County Courthouse, Sunbury.
Kevin Kish, then 50, was charged in connection with a Jan. 24 fire at a vacant structure at 725 N. Shamokin St., located across the street from his apartment.
He was charged with felony counts of criminal mischief, criminal trespass and burglary. He was not charged with arson because he did not intentionally set the fire, which was ignited by a lit cigarette, police said.
He is also charged with two counts each of burglary, criminal trespass and criminal conspiracy and one count of loitering and prowling at night in connection with a Feb. 5 break-in at Nature's Health Food Store, 133-135 E. Independence St.
Kish decided to take both cases to trial. A pre-trial conference regarding the Feb. 5 incident is scheduled for March 7 in Courtroom 3 in the Northumberland County Courthouse.
Here is a timeline of the fires that occurred between Jan. 24 and Jan. 28:
Jan. 24: Fire strikes 725 N. Shamokin St., a vacant three-story brick apartment building without electricity. Kevin Kish of Shamokin is charged in connection with the fire.
Jan. 24: Fire crews respond to the former Hardshell Cafe, 422 N. Shamokin St. James L. Neidlinger Jr. is charged with arson.
Jan. 25: The trailer home of George Jones, 26, of 1432 State Route 125, Coal Township, catches fire shortly after 9 p.m. The blaze is blamed on a boiler.
Jan. 26: A family of six is left homeless when their ranch house along Route 54 in Rush Township is destroyed by flames. The fire, blamed on a wood stove, started about 6 p.m. while the family was not home.
Jan. 28: Two double-homes were destroyed and four other buildings damaged in a fire along Chestnut Street in Kulpmont that started just before 5 a.m. Investigators could not determine a cause because of the extensive damage, but the fire was not considered suspicious.
Jan. 28: Several animals perish and a home is gutted when fire strikes at 1479 Wabash St., Coal Township. It is ruled accidental and blamed on a faulty electrical outlet.
Jan. 28: Firefighters respond to the 600 block of East Sunbury Street for a structure fire at an unoccupied three-story brick apartment building. Neidlinger is charged with arson.