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Suspect arrested for starting fire in Walmart

Published On: Feb 19 2014 12:51:05 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 19 2014 06:58:11 PM CST

One arrest made after Schuylkill County Walmart fire

RUSH TWP., Pa. -

A 20-year-old Hazleton man has been charged for an early Tuesday morning arson inside a Walmart store in Rush Township, Schuylkill County.

Jonathan L. Maldonado was arrested on numerous felony charges and is being held at Schuylkill County Prison on $50,000 bail, police said.

At this time, Maldonado is the only one facing charges in the incident, according to police.

 Police said the fire was intentionally set at 2:26 a.m. Tuesday in the store on Plaza Drive.

Maldonado admitted to Rush Township Police that he started the fire by using a lighter to ignite a container of "Silly String."

Officials said the flames destroyed items and shelving in the lawn and garden area of the store. Police said initial estimates are that the fire caused more than $25,000 in damage.

No one was hurt.

The entire store was shut down until 3 p.m. Tuesday and police report the west wing of the store remains shut down.

Shortly after the fire, police released surveillance video of four men wanted in connection to the fire.  None of the four did anything to stop the fire, according to police.

They were seen "messing around" in the clearance section, then exiting the store and running to their car in a parking lot.

The video shows smoke in the clearance section within a few seconds of the men leaving, followed by flames, said police.

Heavy smoke and flames were inside the building when emergency personnel arrived.

An unknown number of customers and employees had to be evacuated.

When confronted by police, Maldonado initially said he knew nothing about the fire.

Eventually he admitted lighting a "Silly String" container on fire and setting it on a shelf while it still was burning.  That shelf was in the store's clearance section, next to the lawn and garden section in the store's west wing.

Police have charged Maldonado with four counts of arson as well as dangerous burning, causing a catastrophe, failing to prevent a catastrophe, criminal mischief that damaged property and recklessly endangering other people.