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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Arson suspect says he meant to burn just trash

  • A former tenant of the Hawley apartment building that burned March 20th, has been arrested and charged with setting the fire.
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  •  A former tenant of the Hawley apartment building that burned March 20th, has been arrested and charged with setting the fire.
        PA State Police, Honesdale, arrested Francis Peter Grzegorzewski Jr., age 31, Tuesday, and charged him with four felony counts of Arson, a felony count of Criminal Mischief and one misdemeanor of Recklessly Endangering Another Person.
        Hawley Fire Department, with aid from other companies, were called out at 6:33 a.m. March 20. Fire was leaping from the central area of the apartment house at 202-204 Chestnut Avenue.
         There were no injuries related to the blaze. About 50 firefighters responded. The wood frame structure, over 100 years old, was so badly damaged that the Fire Chief Scott Mead ordered the remains taken down that morning.
        Trooper FC John Chervanka, who is also a Deputy State Police Fire Marshal, conducted the investigation. According to the affidavit he filed, fire patterns revealed that the blaze started from the interior, on the first floor. Accidental ignition sources were ruled out; the electrical service and heating system showed no sign of failure. Examination of fire debris revealed that combustible materials had been ignited by an open flame.
       The owner of the building told State Police that his tenants had moved out approximately two weeks before, the affidavit states. His tenants owed him rent plus the utility bills and the water was going to be shut off.
        He said he was last in the building March 19th and everything appeared fine. He said his tenants left trash bags on the first floor.
       The owner estimated that his losses were $70,000, and he did not have insurance, the affidavit states.
       A neighbor a few doors away told police that shortly after 6 a.m. she observed a "small SUV", light green or silver color, that pulled out from a driveway next to the fire scene. After getting gas downtown and returning home, she heard glass breaking and saw smoke coming from the apartment house. She contacted 9-1-1.
       A next door neighbor said she was told by firefighters she needed to leave the area. She said the smoke was overwhelming, and she fled with her two small children.
       Deputy Fire Chief Eugene Krause told the trooper at the fire scene that the former tenants had arrived. The trooper interviewed Francis Peter Grzegorzewski Jr. as well as another woman who had lived there, and Grzegorzewski's mother who lives outside Hawley.
        Grzegorzewski said his mother had driven him to his work at a sandwich shop that morning. His mother then went to get him as well as the other woman, because a fireman had said they needed to be there.
    Page 2 of 2 -     Grzegorzewski and the other tenant had sub-letted the other apartment to another two people, who had moved out a few weeks before. They told the trooper they suspected these tenants may have had something to do with the fire. Trooper Chervanka subsequently interviewed them, and ruled them out as suspects because he was able to confirm their alibis.
       The trooper later determined that Grzegorzewski had driven himself to work and operated a silver colored Subaru Forester.
      On March 25 Trooper Chervanka interviewed Grzegorzewski at his mother's home.  Grzegorzewski at first said he dropped a cigarette inside a trash bag. The trooper then explained the time line and that careless smoking cold not have started the fire; rather, an open flame was used.
       According to the affidavit, Grzegorzewski confessed to setting the bag of trash on fire. He said he was inside the structure to remove trash bags for disposal elsewhere. In a written confession,  Grzegorzewski said he only wanted to burn a small bag of trash hoping the fire would burn itself out. "I left the house unaware it set the whole building on fire," police said he wrote. "I take full responsibility for the accident and feel bad for it."
       After arraignment before District Justice Bonnie Carney, Grzegorzewski was lodged in Wayne County Correctional Facility in lieu of $200,000 bail.
       
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