Accused arsonist nearing plea deal

A Logan Township man accused of setting fire to his house has struck a tentative plea deal that includes jail time, according to his attorney.

Edward W. Houck, 50, of 981 Frankstown Road, appeared before Magisterial District Judge Steven Jackson on Thursday wearing an orange Blair County jumpsuit, one he’ll wear for at least a year if he accepts responsibility for his actions, Houck’s attorney, Ted Krol.

Houck was charged with arson, aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe, resisting arrest, recklessly endangering another person and illegal possession of a handgun after his arrest Sunday outside his home as firefighters worked to put out flames that ultimately gutted the first floor of Houck’s two-story home, detached garage and damaged the basement and first floor of the home.

“The Commonwealth will require him to plead guilty to the majority of the charges,” Krol said, adding his client agreed to waive his preliminary hearing in light of the tentative agreement. Krol said he’ll look at the evidence police have against Houck once the discovery phase of Houck’s case begins.

Police alleged Houck told a volunteer fire chief that he set the fire. Houck appeared drunk, police said, when he approached police on the scene and was taken into custody when it was discovered he had a .38 caliber handgun.

Police said Houck cut down pine trees on his property prior to starting the fire and blocked the driveway so emergency responders could not approach the home.

Houck was soaked in a flammable liquid when he was arrested and had cut the home’s heating fuel lines to flood the basement with oil as well as dumped gas from cans in the three-bay garage, police said.

Houck is in the midst of a divorce, so any restitution for the damage to the home Houck owns with his estranged wife, Deborah, may take some time to resolve, according to Krol.

Assistant District Attorney Julie Koren said the home is valued at more than $200,000, and the amount Houck owes won’t be known for several months.

Koren said Houck has no record and would face between one to two years in county jail, plus “a long time of probation.”

Houck remains in jail in lieu of $35,000 cash bail.