Firefighters battle blaze in Uniontown

Ed Riedmann

Fire crews battle a suspicious fire Friday night on East Main Street in Uniontown.

A man was arraigned on arson charges Thursday afternoon for allegedly igniting an abandoned house and a van on fire in a suicide attempt.

John Anthony Mack, 48, who is listed as homeless was lodged in Fayette County Prison on $75,000 bail after his release from the hospital following treatment of burns and mental health issues.

Firefighters were called to 352 East Main Street at about 9 p.m. Friday for a abandoned house and a van on fire. Witnesses told police they saw a man carrying a lighter walk across the street from where the van was burning. Uniontown City Police learned the fire appeared to be suspicious, and Mack was at Uniontown Hospital with burns, according to court documents.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed in his case, Mack told Uniontown City Police Lt. Tom Kolencik he “was trying to kill himself tonight by burning himself up” after a long history of drug and alcohol addiction. He said he found a box full of papers in a closet in the house, lit them on fire and fell asleep. He woke up as the room filled with smoke, and stumbled outside to the van. He found an aerosol can and lit the fumes. The can exploded and “blew him out of the van,” he said.

“Mack jokingly said he realized then today was not his day to die so he figured he should leave the area,” Kolencik wrote in the affidavit.

Mack said he walked toward Hopwood until he got to a restaurant and tried to ease the pain with a puddle of water. He told police he found a bike in the area and stole it to ride to the hospital, according to court documents.

Kolencik said in a previous interview he feels empathy for Mack, saying compassion is required in police work.

Mack was charged with two counts each of arson and criminal mischief and one count of burglary. He remains in Fayette County Prison in lieu of bail.

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