Mahaffey, PA – It was a mystery when two houses were destroyed by fire in Mahaffey last November. Now police say that the mystery has been solved, and two people are accused of arson for the massive fire that took 81 firefighters from four different counties to put out.
29-year-old Raymond Geer of Mahaffey was charged with 81 felony counts of arson with danger of death or bodily injury, along with other felony charges of causing a catastrophe, arson with intent to destroy an unoccupied building, reckless burning or exploding, and criminal mischief.
33-year-old Catherine Burnheimer of Northern Cambria is also accused of being part of the arson, though she will likely face lesser charges.
Two witnesses came forward a month after the arson. They said that Burnheimer had told them that she had acted as the “lookout” while Geer set the fire.
The fire started in an unoccupied, two-story, wood-framed house early in the morning on Nov. 19. It burned to the ground, and the flames were so large that it caused a second house fire at the home next to it.
Both houses were unoccupied at the time, but it took several fire departments to extinguish it. It was determined to be arson, but it took months to gather the evidence to charge anyone.
Geer allegedly admitted to police that he had planned to set the house on fire with Burnheimer. He said that he thought the fire department would be able to respond before any damage was done to other homes and that he never intended for the fire to get so large.
The home originally belonged to Geer’s uncle, who had died a few months before the fire. Geer reportedly set the fire because he had been incarcerated when his uncle died, had never got a chance to say his goodbyes, and had “let his emotions get the best of him.”