Cory L. English

Cory L. English

A Blair man who admitted to starting the fire that caused significant damage to his home was sentenced to jail Tuesday after a judge said the man needed to recognize the “dangerous situation” he created.

Cory L. English, 37, pleaded no contest Aug. 13 and was found guilty of attempted third-degree arson, a Class 1 misdemeanor, in Washington County District Court.

Judge John E. Samson sentenced English to 11 months in the Washington Count Jail. Under Nebraska Good Time Law, he must serve a minimum of 173 days. He was given credit for nine days previously served.

Prior to sentencing, Chief Deputy County Attorney Erik Petersen said there was no agreement for a sentence because it was “a very strange case.”

Petersen said English started the fire and went to a bar. He then regretted his decision and alerted authorities to the fire.

“I'm not arguing probation, but I think some incarceration is necessary due to the risk to first responders,” Petersen said.

English's attorney, Greg Pivovar of Omaha, said his client was behind on his mortgage and “decided to do something stupid.”

According to an arrest affidavit filed by a Nebraska State Fire Marshal investigator, Blair firefighters were dispatched to a reported structure fire at 1253 Park St. at 4:22 a.m. April 24.

Fire Chief Joe Leonard told the investigator there was heavy smoke in the one-story house on arrival and firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the dining room area.

The investigator examined the scene. In the dining room, close to the west wall, he found a hole burned through the floor. The cause was determined to be incendiary.

During an initial interview, English said he didn't know how the fire started and he had been with friends in Omaha at the time the fire started.

English bought the house only a few months prior to the fire. He also told the investigator he was a month behind on his mortgage and he had recently become unemployed.

In a second interview May 1, English admitted he had lied and had started the fire by lighting the carpet in the dining room on fire with a lighter. English said he didn't know why he did it, but he knew that he made a mistake.

During the hearing, Samson noted English's criminal record was “not remarkable,” but jail was necessary for him to understand the seriousness of the crime.

“You put volunteer firefighters at risk in the middle of the night to fight this,” Samson said.

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