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Police Charge East McKeesport Volunteer Firefighter In 2 Arson Cases

EAST McKEESPORT (KDKA) -- Allegheny County Police have arrested a volunteer firefighter on arson charges in connection with two recent fires he also helped to extinguish.

According to police, 18-year-old Joshua McKelvey was arrested around 3 p.m. Friday.

McKelvey was a probationary firefighter at the United Fire and Rescue Station 135, located not far from his home in East McKeesport. He had been on the job less than two months.

The United Fire Chief says he and other members of his department feel angry at and betrayed by McKelvey.

"His actions put many people at risk, including first responders who were dispatched to fight the blaze," said Chief Shane Spielvogle. "His actions degrade the public trust and put a smear on the fire services in general."

Investigators say McKelvey is charged in connection with a fire last month at a vacant motel on Route 30 in North Versailles. The blaze caused the building to collapse, and Route 30 had to be shut down while crews battled the flames.

During the questioning, police said McKelvey admitted to setting the fire. He told investigators he entered an open door of the motel, poured gasoline on the steps and interior, and then lit it with a lighter.

According to the criminal complaint, McKelvey told investigators, "I knew the motel was used for drug and sex activity and was tired of it."

He told detectives he suffers from depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder and hasn't taken medication in six months.

He is also charged for allegedly setting a brush fire in Wall Borough early Thursday morning.

Police say McKelvey was one of the first firefighters to respond to the small fire in the 500-block of Wall Avenue.

Investigators say he confessed to setting the fire during the questioning by police. He said he wasn't feeling emotionally well, and he wanted to have a fire. He told police he removed his spare tire, doused it with gasoline, and set it ablaze.

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Chief Spielvogle said, "Situations like this, for a person who was not truly - what we would consider - one of our brothers to do something like this, is disgusting to me. It makes me physically sick."

McKelvey is charged with two counts each of arson – endangering persons and arson – endangering property, as well as causing or risking a catastrophe and failure to control or report dangerous fires.

He was arraigned on those charges and his bond set at $10,000.

Police with North Versailles, East McKeesport and Allegheny County, along with the Fire Marshal's Office conducted the investigation.

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