Wheeling man charged with setting fire in apartment hallway

Updated 10/7/2016 6:00 PM

A Wheeling man was ordered held on $825,000 bail Friday on charges he set a fire outside his first-floor apartment.

Michael Barth, 40, is charged with aggravated arson. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.

Responding to several 911 reports of a fire in an 80-unit building on the 300 block of Woodcreek Road, Wheeling fire and police departments arrived at 2:53 a.m. Wednesday to find the sprinklers on and the fire extinguished, said Cook County assistant state's attorney Maria McCarthy.

Firefighters observed damage to the door leading to resident storage units and the carpet in front of that door. The storage room is next to Barth's residence, McCarthy said.

A fire investigator noted four pour patterns on the hallway carpet that suggested the use of an accelerant. Only one of the pour patterns ignited, McCarthy said.

Investigators determined the fire was set deliberately, she said.

Residents evacuated the building when firefighters arrived but Barth was not among them, McCarthy said. Police and firefighters entered his home about 4 a.m. using a key management provided and found him in his bed. They recovered two lighters from his pocket. They also found two jugs of octane booster, McCarthy said. One of the jugs had been opened and showed pour drips.

The management company estimated damage at more than $15,000 and has moved to evict Barth, McCarthy said.

This is not Barth's first run-in with the law, authorities say.

"In recent weeks the defendant has repeatedly contacted 911 and caused emergency responses to his building," she said.

The reports began Aug. 30 and continued through Sept. 22, McCarthy said.

Barth admitted pulling the alarm on four occasions, McCarthy said. He said he was angry at neighbors and at management for not responding to his request for repairs, McCarthy said.

Barth's criminal background includes convictions for leaving the scene of an accident and intoxicated driving. He next appears in court on Oct. 28.

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