Barred Mt. Oliver firefighter turns up in gear at blaze, spurs investigation
The Mt. Oliver Fire Department will review surveillance video from its fire station to try to determine how a former firefighter, barred for life from joining a department because of arson convictions, showed up to fight a house fire.
Francis Kestner Jr., the son of fire Chief Francis Kestner, wore Mt. Oliver fire gear at a fire on Saturday despite being dismissed from the department 10 years ago, borough officials said.
“We're going to look at all the angles and see what it shows us. We're going to dive in deep and see if anyone told him to do it,” said Tim Sherman, the fire department's vice president, who is leading the investigation. “Something is going to be done. I'm not going to stop until something is done.”
Department officials could pursue criminal charges against Kestner if he trespassed to take gear from the station, or they could discipline firefighters if they permitted him to take the gear, Sherman said.
The fire department will change department policy and stop leaving the station's garage door open during fires, Sherman said after an emergency fire board meeting on Tuesday. Kestner may have obtained the fire gear through the open garage door.
The fire heavily damaged a house on Margaret Street and caused minor damage to a neighboring house. Neighbors said a grill might have started the fire.
Kestner could not be reached for comment.
Kestner, 30, pleaded guilty to setting five unoccupied homes and a parked car on fire between September 2002 and January 2003. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel sentenced him to five years on probation. He pleaded guilty to a sex offense in 2010, went to jail for six months and was given five years on probation.
Because of his arson convictions, Kestner is barred for life from joining a fire department, said Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney's office. Aside from possibly trespassing, officials in the DA's office don't think Kestner committed a crime by being at the fire scene.
Mt. Oliver Mayor James Cassidy, a member of the fire department and a relative of the Kestners, said he worked at the fire and saw Kestner there in full fire gear. He said he did not see whether Kestner fought the fire. Kestner has been at fire scenes in the past observing firefighters, Cassidy said.
“This is the first time I've ever seen him in gear since 10 years ago,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy will not participate in the investigation. A department rule bars him from taking part in an investigation involving a relative.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Duquesne University football player died by suicide
- Vehicle windows broken in Brighton Heights and Spring Garden
- Pittsburgh police searching for man who shot juvenile in Allentown
- National Weather Service predicts up to 7 inches of snow before Sunday night
- Winter storm causes flight cancellations
- More departments in region eye equipping officers with Narcan to treat overdoses
- Southwest announces daily nonstop flight between Pittsburgh, Dallas Love Field
- Burial set for remains of World War II soldier from Perrysville
- Gun-free school zones cut number of Mt. Lebanon baiting sites for deer culling in half
- New Monroeville Mall policy aims to tame teen shoppers
- Pittsburgh councilwoman Rudiak announces bid for city controller