Monday, June 17, 2013
Bristol Township firefighter charged with two more arson fires
Posted: Sunday, June 2, 2013
As a volunteer firefighter, it was no surprise that Nicholas Ricciardi called 911 to report a fire near a PECO Energy substation in Bristol Township.
The shocker, police say, is that the 22-year-old Bristol Township man set the fire, then waited and watched as firefighters from his own company extinguished it.
A few weeks later, Ricciardi set another fire in the woods behind a Bristol Township elementary school, police said.
And four days after that second fire, he and two other Bristol Township men set fire to a vacant historic mansion in Bensalem, police added. He was already arrested and charged in that fire before being arraigned Friday on the new arson charges in Bristol Township.
Both of those February fires were extinguished by Firehouse Station 13, where Ricciardi was a volunteer.
He admitted to setting the two fires after being arrested in the Feb. 20 robbery of ateenager in Bristol Township, police said.
Ricciardi provided specific details of how the fires were started, police added. He set fire to a bed mattress and an abandoned boat in the woods near the PECO property at Millcreek and Edgely roads on Feb. 1, then reported the blaze to 911 — even providing the dispatcher with his real name, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Later, firefighters reported to police that they saw Ricciardi at the PECO fire scene and that he left shortly after firefighters arrived.
Ricciardi set the second fire on Feb. 18 in the woods near George Washington Elementary School, police said.
Ricciardi said that he did have concerns about starting fires and knew what he was doing was wrong and dangerous, but he enjoyed watching things burn, court documents said.
“The defendant stated he started fires and with his training at the fire academy he had specific knowledge how and where to start fires to make sure they stayed ignited and could breathe and burn longer,” according to the affidavit.
Ricciardi and the two other men are awaiting trial on arson and related charges in connection with the Feb. 22 fire that heavily damaged a 237-year-old Croydon Mansion, also called the Croydon Lodge, in Bensalem.
The men admitted to using cans of spray paint and sealer they found in the mansion to coat walls of a closet under a stairwell and a cardboard box filled with wood spindles, soaking a T-shirt in paint and then placing it in the box and lighting it with a cigarette lighter, police said.
In the mansion fire, Ricciardi also admitted he left the closet door partially closed to allow the fire to “breathe,” police said, and he knew that setting fire under the stairwell would cause it to spread rapidly throughout the structure.
Ricciardi, who remains in Bucks County prison in lieu of bail for earlier charges, was video arraigned Friday before Bristol Township District Judge Joanne Kline on reckless burning of property that exceeds $5,000, risking a catastrophe and related summary charges. She set his latest bail at 10 percent of $50,000.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: jciavaglia@phillyBurbs.com; Twitter: @jociavaglia.