Activist plans to confront township officials after assault arrest

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

A local animal rights activist and preservationist plans to go before Springettsbury Township leaders to voice concerns about her neighbors — who she's accused of brandishing a gun at during a dispute over a fire.

Jane Heller told The York Dispatch she intends to speak at the township’s board of supervisors meeting Thursday night to discuss the situation on July 16 that led to her arrest. She wants to know why the police didn't cite her neighbors for the fire.

Heller, the former head of the Humane Society of Southern Maryland and York, called 911 that afternoon to report what she described as a large fire near her home. She said she initially feared a house was on fire — but later learned the neighbors had cut down a tree and burned it.

Jane Heller

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Chief Dan Hoff, of York Area United Fire & Rescue, described the incident as a large controlled burn. The flames were extinguished by the crew because such fires aren’t allowed in the township, he told the Dispatch on Wednesday. Hoff couldn’t say how large the fire was.

Court records do not indicate whether Springettsbury Township Police took action against the property owners, and messages left with the police were not returned Wednesday. The neighbors also haven't responded to requests for comment.

Police arrested Heller after people at her neighbors' home called police and alleged she held a handgun up at them and made threats from the door of her home. The 82-year-old later told the Dispatch she feared retaliation for calling 911 and wanted to warn her neighbors she would defend herself.

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She was arraigned on misdemeanor charges of making terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment, and then released on $10,000 unsecured bail. She faces a preliminary district court hearing Aug. 1, court records show.

The Springettsbury Township Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled to begin 7 p.m. at the YAU Fire & Rescue meeting room, 50 Commons Drive. The meeting will also stream online. Login information is available at www.springettsbury.com.

Jane Heller of Springettsbury Township reads "Paintings of Indiana County" during the Governor's Residence Open House following Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's inauguration ceremony Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.