Police: Red Lion fire lieutenant set SUV ablaze

Sean Roth

The Red Lion fire lieutenant charged with arson set his SUV on fire last summer and attempted to collect the insurance on it, according to authorities.

Charging documents obtained Monday, Nov. 5, allege that Sean Christopher Roth, 39, lit his 2016 Ford Escape on fire outside his Windsor Township home Aug. 29.

Roth, according to police, reported the fire to York County 911 through his portable radio.

Roth, of the 200 block of Cobblestone Court, is charged with arson to collect insurance, making a false insurance claim and risking catastrophe.

He also serves as a Prince George’s County firefighter/medic. He is currently on leave from both departments, officials have said.

Incident: York Area Regional Police responded to Roth's apartment about 2:30 p.m. Aug. 29 for the reported vehicle fire.

Police arrived and found the SUV on fire, and the flames appeared to be coming from the center area of the dashboard, officials said.

Roth said the front window had "burst out," shortly after he found the fire and that the fire spread through the passenger compartment, documents state. The Yoe Fire Co. extinguished the fire, police said.

Roth told authorities that the check engine light had come on the night before and that the SUV was not acting right, according to officials.

He drove his vehicle right before the fire, and he also removed all of his belongings from the vehicle before the fire, Detective Donald Hopple Jr. wrote in charging documents. 

Roth said he and his girlfriend went inside after he took his things from his car, then heard a noise and found the vehicle on fire, police said. That was when he reported the fire, documents state.

The vehicle was towed from the scene once the fire was extinguished.

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Investigation: Hopple looked at the car two days later and found that the most severe damage happened in the center area of the dashboard, but it was low in the dashboard and closer to the floor area, charging documents state.

Police said the center of the dashboard had the most severe damage. Hopple examined the wiring in the area and did not see any obvious electrical malfunctions, according to charging documents.

Hopple contacted State Farm and found that Roth had submitted an insurance claim for the vehicle, officials said.

Police spoke to Roth's girlfriend on Oct. 26, and she denied knowing how the fire was set, but she did admit to helping Roth empty the vehicle out before the fire happened, charging documents state.

Roth spoke to police that day as well, and he initially told authorities that his girlfriend alerted him to the fire, prompting him to grab his portable radio and report the fire, officials said. He denied knowing how the fire started, charging documents state.

Hopple told Roth he suspected Roth might have been involved with starting the fire, officials said.

Roth then admitted he had started the fire, charging documents state. Police said he told authorities he placed paper up inside the dashboard from the bottom, then lit it on fire with a butane lighter after he cleaned the vehicle out.

Roth went into his apartment as the fire spread throughout the vehicle, charging documents state. 

After the vehicle started burning, he reported the fire through his radio, according to police.

LieutenantBoth the Red Lion Fire Department and the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department said Roth has been placed on leave.

Roth served with Prince George's County Fire/EMS for more than 19 years, and he was assigned to the facilities and resource planning office. He will be on paid administrative leave until further notice, the department said.

Red Lion Fire Chief Benjamin Rodkey said he was notified of Roth's charges by York Area Regional Police after Roth's arraignment on Friday, Nov. 2.

Rodkey wrote in a news release that Roth was relieved of all duties and responsibilities with the department and will remain on leave until further notice.

Roth also has instructed courses at the York County Fire School.

The Fire Chiefs’ & Fire Fighters’ Association of York County said in a statement that Roth has been placed on a leave of absence from his teaching duties, pending the outcome of legal actions. 

The Prince George’s County Fire Department said in a news release over the weekend that Roth was in York County Prison on $25,000 bail. However, Roth did not go to prison, according to prison records.

The York County Sheriff's Office said he posted bail Friday.

A publicly listed number could not be found for Roth. He does not have an attorney listed.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30 at District Judge John H. Fishel's Office.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.