DUBOIS – A man who described himself as homeless has been charged with starting two dumpster fires in DuBois.
James Guy Ehrenfried, 22, was charged Thursday by DuBois City police with three felony counts of arson-reckless burning, two felony counts of risking a catastrophe, two misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. He is lodged in the Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $20,000.
The charges stem for incidents Jan. 14 in the area of 100 N. Main St.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, when police responded at 10:20 p.m. they could see fire coming out of the top of a dumpster near the old Bamboo Garden and another dumpster behind Palumbo’s Meat Market. The fire chief advised the officers that both fires were intentionally set.
The dumpster near the Bamboo Garden was sitting underneath an overhang that came off the side of the building and was covering a refrigerator unit. The fire company was able to put this fire out without any damage to the building or structure near it.
The dumpster near Palumbo’s was near two parked vehicles that belonged to Palumbo. The fire company was also able to extinguish this fire before it spread. Both dumpsters suffered damage estimated to be $1,650, according to the complaint.
When an officer was able to view surveillance video from neighboring businesses, he saw a Caucasian male walk up to one of the vehicles parked near Palumbo’s. This male tried to open the driver’s side door, but was unable to do it. He then walked around the back of the vehicle toward Giant Eagle.
Later the male came back from the area of Giant Eagle. He stood behind the dumpster, reached in and then walked away. A few minutes later, both dumpsters were on fire. This male had bandaged hands.
On Jan. 18 police were dealing with Ehrenfried at City Park. It was noted that Ehrenfried resembled the man in the dumpster videos and even had one bandaged hand. He was placed under arrest for a violation at the park and taken to the police station.
When he was questioned by police, Ehrenfried said he was drinking beer the night of the fires and explained he does “goofy things” when he drinks. He said he was walking around because he is homeless.
He stated he walked through the alley from West Long Avenue toward Giant Eagle, which is between Palumbo’s and Mike’s Locksmith. When he got to Giant Eagle he realized he forgot his mother’s card that he was going to use, so he walked back.
As he went by the old Bamboo Garden, he walked to the dumpster, looked in it, pulled out his lighter and lit some cardboard on fire, he told police. He explained he didn’t think it would start a fire because he was just using a lighter. He mentioned the cardboard started to smoke as he walked away.
He then walked to the dumpster near Palumbo’s where he said he used his lighter again to light a plastic garbage bag on fire. He stated he thought it would just go out.
As he was walking away, he looked back to see both dumpsters were on fire and ran from the scene, he said. He commented to police that he didn’t expect the fire “to be that big.”
When police spoke with Ehrenfried’s mother, she stated that he told her during the early morning hours of Jan. 15 that he was the person who set the dumpster fires.
Ehrenfried’s preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 27 at 10 a.m. during centralized court in District Judge Pat Ford’s office.