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Westmoreland

Cops: Ligonier Township man said he set home on fire because he wanted new house

Paul Peirce
| Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, 9:39 a.m.
The home on Cool Spring Lane is seen with side damage Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018 in Ligonier Township. The home owner has been charged with arson.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
The home on Cool Spring Lane is seen with side damage Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018 in Ligonier Township. The home owner has been charged with arson.

A 66-year-old Ligonier Township man charged by police with setting his home on fire late Friday admitted to investigators he set the blaze “because I wanted a new house,” according to court documents.

Robert A. Forgie, 66, of Cool Spring Lane, was charged with arson, risking a catastrophe and dangerous burning in connection with the blaze that a state police fire marshal reported began in the living room about 10 p.m. Friday. Forgie is being held in the Westmoreland County Prison after he failed to post $50,000 bail following his arraignment before Ligonier District Judge Denise Snyder Thiel.

Township police Officer James Friscarella rescued Forgie from inside the burning structure. Flames and smoke pushed the officer back on an unsuccessful first rescue attempt through the front door, according to court documents filed by police.

“(Friscarella) then did go to the side of the residence and did hear an individual coughing and choking on smoke. This officer did locate a male standing by the side door of the residence … grabbed the male and drug him away from the fire,” Friscarella wrote.

Friscarella reported that during the rescue, he and Officer Shawn Knepper noticed a burning red gas can in the side yard.

After firefighters arrived, police report they received information from two witnesses who said they observed Forgie on the side of house “pouring gasoline on the fire.”

“During that time, Forgie was screaming ‘I want a new house,’ ” both witnesses told police, Friscarella said.

Police said a state police fire marshal determined the blaze was intentionally set. A section of Route 30, east of Ligonier Borough, was closed for a few hours.

Forgie was not injured, authorities said. Fire officials said the home was extensively damaged.

In a later interview with police, Friscarella said Forgie admitted setting fire to the home he had purchased about one year ago.

“I did it … I dumped the gas on the house,” Friscarella quoted Forgie as telling him.

Asked why he did it, Friscarella said Forgie replied, “I wanted a new house.”

A preliminary hearing for Forgie is tentatively set for Aug. 24 before Thiel.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, ppeirce@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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