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Man convicted of arson back in court

WAKEFIELD — A 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to setting a Bradford carport on fire in November, was again before a judge in 4th Division District Court Friday.

This time Austin D. Hill, of 107 Church Street, Bradford, appeared before Judge Madeline Quirk, pleading not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of calling 911 and falsely reporting a fire.

Westerly Police Lt. Phil Williams said emergency operators received a report from a person who called himself “David Scarletto” reporting that on May 24 he saw smoke in the area of 182 Canal Street, Westerly. When emergency personnel arrived, there was no fire.

Westerly police began an investigation tracing the number back to a 508 area code number once belonging to another local man who informed officers he had sold the phone to Hill. He was arrested and charged.

In the Bradford fire, firefighters were on the scene within minutes and worked quickly to extinguish the blaze, which destroyed a 1995 Chevrolet Suburban with a value of $5,000, a two-vehicle carport valued at $3,800 and an American Crafter Cycle Trailer estimated at $7,500.

Hill initially claimed after he witnessed the blaze that he tried to put it out with a garden hose.

Later, police said they discovered an empty gas can they said was used by Hill to carry fuel to ignite the fire. Police said Hill had a lighter in his pocket when he was arrested.

In a statement to police, Hill said he had not intended to burn the vehicles completely but “desperately wanted to be a fireman” and wanted to “train himself” and “see how he would do in a quick emergency situation.”

Hill pleaded no contest or guilty to a felony charge of fourth-degree arson in Washington County Superior Court before Judge Melanie Wilk Thunberg on May 19 and was sentenced to three years of probation, ordered to pay restitution and undergo counseling and was issued a no contact order with the owners of the property.

Before Hill was released, he was told he would have to appear in Superior Court as a possible violator of terms of his probation on the previous case. A sheriff handcuffed Hill and he was brought to a holding cell to await his appearance in Superior Court.

His next District Court appearance is on June 27.

— A.J. Algier

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