Man convicted in arson that led to firefighter’s death

A Kentucky man has been convicted of setting a house fire that led to a firefighter’s death.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that a federal jury in Bowling Green convicted 44-year-old Steve Allen Pritchard on Thursday of charges of mail fraud and arson that caused a death.

Columbia Fire Department Assistant Chief Charles Sparks had a heart attack while inside a burning house on June 30, 2011. He died eight days later.

Prosecutors said Pritchard had suggested to his girlfriend that they set the fire to collect renter’s insurance. They filed an insurance claim after the fire and it was paid.

Prosecutors said Pritchard was involved in four previous fires to collect insurance.

Pritchard claimed he was in Louisville making a delivery for his employer at the time of the fire, but location data obtained by the FBI from his cell phone showed otherwise, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Russell M. Coleman.

Pritchard faces a minimum of seven years in prison and a maximum of life in prison at sentencing in October. His girlfriend, Brandi Waggener, pleaded guilty but she has not been sentenced.

Coleman called firefighters unsung heroes.

“Greed-fueled arson that endangers those public servants will be appropriately dealt with,” he said.