Fire marshal elaborates on arson ruling in OC blaze

Staff Writer

A state police fire marshal on Thursday explained his arson ruling following an investigation into Tuesday’s fire at a home at 107 Charlton St. in Oil City.

“There were two points of origin for the fire, both in places where there shouldn’t be fire,” Jeff Cross told the newspaper Thursday afternoon.

The fire was discovered by Oil City police after they responded to a report of domestic violence Tuesday night, according to police.

Police arrested Michael Ritchey Jr., 37, of Oil City, who is accused of assaulting his girlfriend, according to a criminal complaint.

Ritchey initially tried to keep officers out of the residence, and when police did enter, they found that a hooded jacket and something in the bathroom had been set on fire, the complaint said.

“It was pretty cut and dry,” Cross said. “We knew it was human intervention and that things were intentionally set on fire.”

Cross said he found lighters he believes were used to set fire to tissue paper and to the hooded jacket. He was unable to determine if any kind of accelerant was used.

“It was tough because everything was a block of ice that night,” Cross said. “With temperatures like that, everything froze up pretty quickly.”

Oil City Fire Chief Mark Hicks said no injuries occurred as a result of the fire.

Ritchey was arraigned Tuesday night on felony charges of arson, causing catastrophe and strangulation, one misdemeanor charge of simple assault and one summary charge of harassment.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Central Court.