Man accused of setting fires in Waupaca County faces 21 criminal charges
WAUPACA COUNTY Wis. (WBAY) - A man accused of setting multiple fires is facing 21 criminal charges.
David Engel-Deford is charged with seven counts of intentionally setting fire to another’s land, seven counts of negligent handling of burning material, and seven counts of setting fire which becomes a forest fire.
The criminal complaint, the legal charging document filed in court, states the crimes took place between the evening of April 12 and the morning of April 13, 2023 in northwestern Waupaca County. Authorities responded to about five different fires near each other within that time frame. They were on various properties, some private, some owned by the DNR, on Engebretson Road, Ness Road, Brandt Road, and Roosevelt Road.
Investigators were able to eventually track down and identify David Engel-Deford as a suspect, as the criminal complaint said his vehicle was spotted near one of the fires.
The criminal complaint said Engel-Deford has an extensive criminal history and contact with law enforcement, which included past arson concerns. The criminal complaint also noted he has family members in the firefighting community.
At one point, while interviewing him, investigators observed what they believed to be ash on Engel-Deford’s pants.
The criminal complaint said Engel-Deford initially denied setting the fires, but eventually admitted responsibility. According to the complaint, he claimed to “blacking out” after looking at the “driest spot” where a fire was set, and then “coming to” at which point he described what the fire looked like. He claimed to have started some of the fires with a lighter and others with a small propane torch.
When asked why he started the fires, Engel-Deford said he’s known to do things without knowing why and without thinking. He also mentioned he had a lot of worries and stressors in his mind at the time.
The fires burned about 10 acres, destroyed personal forest property and damaged electrical infrastructure. The criminal complaint said 75 firefighters responded to these fires. A total of five structures were threatened and suppression efforts cost the WDNR about $6,761.
David Engel-Deford’s next court hearing is scheduled for May 30. He faces a potential fine of more than $40,000 and more than 40 years behind bars if he’s convicted on all charges.
Copyright 2023 WBAY. All rights reserved.