Upshur man arrested on arson charge

BUCKHANNON – The state fire marshal’s office on Thursday arrested a Buckhannon man who allegedly confessed to setting a fire at a residence on Island Avenue.

Alex Ryan Wamsley, 22, of 88 Smithfield St., was charged with first-degree arson by Assistant State Fire Marshal Joshua Amos with the Fire Investigation Division of the West Virginia Commission Office of the State Fire Marshal.

According to the criminal complaint prepared by Amos and filed in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s office, Wamsley allegedly confessed to setting a fire that broke out on Sept. 11 at approximately 1:27 p.m. in a home located at 130 Island Avenue.

In the criminal complaint, Amos wrote that he had determined the fire was “incendiary, the result of a willful and malicious act.”

No one was injured in the fire, Amos told The Inter-Mountain in a phone interview Thursday. Amos also said that although Wamsley admitted to setting the fire, he never explained his motivation.

“He (Wamsley) never gave us a reason why,” Amos said.

The property Wamsley targeted belonged to Richard Ervin, although it’s actually been unoccupied for approximately one year.

“Mr. Ervin’s mother lived there (until she died), and he (Richard Ervin) was the heirship to the property after she passed,” Amos said.

Amos said Wamsley started the fire on an exterior porch of the residence.

And although it didn’t take long to put out – “it had pretty much burnt itself out” by the time the Buckhannon Fire Department arrived on scene, Amos said – the blaze inflicted about $3,000 in damage when the cost of labor and materials are considered.

“I just want to add that I’m really appreciative of the Buckhannon Fire Department,” Amos added. “They were really helpful with the whole ordeal by letting me use their facilities to do the interviews, and I want them to know I really appreciate their efforts in helping me with my investigation.”

Buckhannon Fire Chief Mitch Tacy declined to comment Thursday due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Magistrate Juanita Adams set bond at $75,000, and Wamsley remained in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail as of presstime.

Wamsley’s preliminary hearing in Upshur County Magistrate Court is slated for 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7.

The penalty for a conviction of first-degree arson is imprisonment in a state penitentiary for two to 20 years.