A former Annin Township resident was arrested Thursday on arson charges for allegedly setting fire to a residence from where he was being evicted in July.
Gordon L. Eschrich, 45, of 3 Boyd St., Mount Jewett — where he was arrested on a warrant Thursday and is believed to be his current address — is charged with two counts of arson-endangering persons, first-degree felonies; one count of arson, a second-degree felony; two counts of arson and one of criminal mischief, third-degree felonies; and recklessly endangering another person, a second-degree misdemeanor.
According to the criminal complaint, on July 29, there was a structure fire about 9 a.m. at a house trailer located at 184 Knapps Road in Annin Township. Firefighters from Star Hose Co. in Port Allegany were joined by crews from Roulette, Coudersport, Eldred Borough, Eldred Township and Smethport in battling the blaze.
The residence was owned by Maxine Knapp and occupied by Eschrich and his family. When Punxsutawney-based state police fire marshal Trooper Kathleen Watters arrived on scene to investigate, Eschrich told her he had left the residence about 8 a.m. to go to Roulette to look at an apartment. He said when he returned, he saw smoke coming from the kitchen windows and roof vents of the home, the complaint stated.
He said he called 911 at 9:05 a.m., and then went in the residence to rescue a litter of kittens from the living room. However, Watters said, he had no visible signs of being in a burning residence, like smoke residue or soot on his face, the complaint stated.
Two McKean County Sheriff’s deputies were present when the fire marshal arrived. One told police they went to execute an eviction on Eschrich, of which he had been advised ten days earlier. He told Watters that when they arrived, they saw smoke coming from the trailer and Eschrich standing by his car in the driveway, and no one else was around, the complaint alleged.
The complaint stated that evidence showed the origin of the fire to be in a plastic garbage can in the kitchen, that it was intentionally set at 9:04 a.m. — one minute prior to Eschrich’s 911 call to report the fire.
Witnesses said Eschrich had threatened to burn the residence down if he were to be evicted, the complaint read.
Eschrich was arraigned Thursday before District Judge Bill Todd and committed to jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in Central Court on Dec. 19.
In the days following the fire in July, Eschrich had posted a photo of the blaze, and a note of thanks on the Facebook page of the Star Hose Company.
The note read: “I want to take a minute to say thank you to all the fire department and crews that came to my house fire on Monday morning.”