DEFIANCE — A local firefighter charged with starting a fire inside his garage pleaded guilty Tuesday to reduced charges in the case.
Mark Paul Seibert, 29, of Defiance pleaded guilty in Defiance County Common Pleas Court to two counts of criminal damaging, both first-degree misdemeanors. Judge Joseph Schmenk placed him on non-reporting probation for two years and ordered him to pay $1,651 in restitution to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, which investigated the case, and to the Highland Township Fire Department, which responded to the incident.
Mr. Seibert, an auxiliary firefighter with the Defiance city fire department and a volunteer firefighter with the South Richland and Highland Township departments, was indicted last year on two felony counts of aggravated arson for starting a fire June 18 inside his garage.
E. Charles Bates, who represented Mr. Seibert, said his client was working on a mower when it caught on fire. He attempted to put the fire out, but when he was unable to extinguish it, he called the fire department.
“He was trying to get a mower started, priming it, working with gasoline, which probably wasn’t the best thing you can do but people do it,” Mr. Bates said.
He said his client agreed to plead to misdemeanor charges because of the risk of taking the felony case to trial. Mr. Seibert has been on suspension from the fire departments where he worked, but Mr. Bates said he hopes to regain those positions.
“Obviously he would like to get back into what he enjoys doing,” he said. “This was an unfortunate situation.”
Defiance County Prosecutor Morris J. Murray could not be reached for comment Tuesday.