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Mercer man pleads guilty to igniting $4 million fire

MATOAKA — A cigarette that was tossed into a hole at a building being renovated led to a fire that did an estimated $4 million in damage and a guilty plea to a state information by a Mercer County man.

Brandon Coomes, 29, of Lashmeet, entered the building owned by Matoaka Mayor Todd Colonna on Aug. 8, intending to strip copper wiring from it, said Assistant Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler.

According to Sitler’s narrative in court, Coomes entered the Barger Street building with a marijuana cigarette and a pack of cigarettes. After he flipped the cigarette into the hole, it started smoldering. Sitler said the defendant tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the fire and attempted to leave the building, but had to wait until the street was clear of people.

Sitler said the defendant was caught on video leaving the building, wearing dirty clothes and carrying a wire cutter. “Mr. Coomes was in the process of gutting the building (that was under construction) of the copper wiring in it …

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