BRACKENRIDGE, Pa. (KDKA) — Police charged a volunteer firefighter in connection with a fire Monday evening at a duplex in Brackenridge.
Patrick Gillis, 18, allegedly told police he started the fire because he wanted to respond to a fire call.
It started just before 4:30 p.m. Monday in the 800 block of Seventh Avenue. Flames poured from the structure for more than an hour.
According to a police criminal complaint, multiple witnesses told officers that they saw Gillis in the area just before the fire started, and then saw him return as one of the firefighters with the Pioneer Hose Company.
Police said the fire chief for the Pioneer Hose Company told officers that Gillis had previously lived in the duplex. Police questioned Gillis at the scene and took him into the custody.
Gillis was taken to the Brackenridge Police Department. Police said that during questioning, Gillis confessed to setting the fire. Gillis stated that he put a lighter and some pieces of paper in a microwave, turned it on and then left.
The Allegheny County Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed the fire originated in the microwave.
When asked why he set the fire, police said Gillis told them he just wanted to respond to a fire.
KDKA-TV News talked to Gillis’ mother, Dana, just hours after she learned of her son’s arrest.
“If he did it, he did and it he has to stand up and take actions for his consequences and that’s one thing I’ve taught him,” she said.
Gillis said she used to live in that very duplex with her teenage son and daughter, but the family moved out last month after receiving eviction papers. She said she’s happy no one was inside at the time of the fire but can’t understand why her son would be involved in this crime.
She described her son as a good student who always made her laugh. He worked for the past two years as a volunteer junior fireman.
“That was something he chose to do because he wanted to save lives because somebody looked out for him,” she said.
Officials also say his name had also been brought up in recent nuisance fires in the area.
Now, Dana Gillis said she feels like a failure of a mother and is embarrassed and ashamed by these allegations against her son. She said that he claims he only admitted to the crime because he was tired of police questioning him.
“I wouldn’t be a mother if I didn’t forgive him. He’s my child and as a mother when a child do wrong or right you’re supposed to stand behind him,” she said.
Patrick Gillis was taken to the Allegheny County Jail, where he was being held on felony arson charges.
Damage to the duplex is estimated at $150,000. No injuries were reported.