ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — An Altoona man is behind bars after calling 911 for a house fire he allegedly started while trying to burn spiders from his home.
Altoona police and the Altoona Fire Department responded to the home of 42-year-old Joshua Jenkins on Logan Blvd Thursday night, May 25, around 7 p.m. after he called 911 saying his house was in danger of burning down.
According to the criminal complaint, Jenkins was combative when first responders arrived and gave them difficulty while trying to locate where the fire actually was. Jenkins related to responders that he was using a butane torch, later discovered to be a propane torch, to burn spiders and spider nests around the outside of his house.
It was noted in the complaint that an Altoona officer eventually had to grab Jenkins’ arm and escort him to the backyard after he allegedly tried stopping the firefighters from taking a hose into his house.
Jenkins told police he was using the torch because he was sick of all the spiders and bugs, according to the affidavit.
It was related to police from the fire chief that they arrived to find the door boarded shut by plywood and when they made their way in, a torch was seen on the kitchen floor only to have disappeared moments later. A search warrant ultimately found the torch was concealed in a toolbox behind other tools, allegedly by Jenkins.
Fire Inspector Smithmyer told police that he found approximately 15 burn marks on the outside of the house. While Jenkins denied using the torch inside, numerous burn marks were found inside the kitchen during the investigation.
According to the complaint, the smoke and small fire were mostly contained to one side of the house where smoke was coming from under the siding. On the other side of the exterior wall was the kitchen, investigators said.
While investigating, Smithmyer said they found the door to the attic taped off with electrical tape and when they removed it, a strong odor of smoke came from the attic.
The chief and inspector also told police that if Jenkins hadn’t called 911, it’s likely his house would have burned down and possibly catch the commercial building next door on fire as well.
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Jenkins has been charged with arson, risking a catastrophe, possession of an instrument of crime, tampering with evidence and other lesser charges.
He was placed in Blair County Prison in lieu of $75,000.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 7.