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Homeless fire-starter causes condo evacuation

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Dec 09 2013 03:01:49 PM CST

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

A homeless man caused the evacuation of the Riverport Condominiums in Bethlehem early Saturday morning by starting a fire in a bathroom at the former Starters Riverport pub.

Joey M. Burwell told officials  he was trying to mask an odor when he started a fire in the sink of a restroom in the now-vacant Starters Riverport sports bar, 17 West 2nd St., Bethlehem.

Burwell was sleeping in the garage of the Riverport Condominiums, 11 West 2nd St., before using the bathroom, told police the fire he started with Mesquite Bradley Wood Bisquettes and paper towels.

Burwell told police that he shoved wood chips and paper towels into a black garbage bag and dropped it in the parking garage when the fire "got out of control" and set off a fire alarm.

Several Riverport Condominium tenants evacuated their apartments, officials noted.

Burwell was spotted leaving the garage on to Union Plaza Station by police responding to a fire alarm.

Burwell told police that he was able to get into the apartment complex through the front of the building by waiting for tenants to enter.

Burwell, who used to live in the 500 block of Cherokee Street in Bethlehem, was arraigned on charges of arson, disorderly conduct and criminal and defiant trespass and committed to the Northampton County Prison on $10,000 bail, according to court documents.

A preliminary hearing is set for 10 a.m. Dec. 16.