Two Firefighters Plead Guilty to Torching Firehouse

January 8, 2004

Two former volunteer firemen have pleaded in a federal court in Pittsburgh to charges that on two occasions they deliberately set fire to their firehouse in neighboring Isabella in order to collect around $500,000 in insurance proceeds to fund a new social hall for the 15-man fire department.

According to reports from several news sources, Jerry Booker II, 21, a volunteer fireman, pleaded guilty to setting two fires in June 2002. The second fire was apparently set because the insurers had refused to declare the building a total loss after the first fire. He faces a prison term of 5 to 40 years.

Yesterday former assistant fire chief Thomas Baker also reportedly plead guilty to being involved in the arson. He apparently told Booker to set the fires.

Two other men, former fire chief Steven M. Dugan and fire department trustee William A. Robinson, await trial later this month on charges of filing a false insurance claim. Both men have maintained their innocence.

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