Jahwann McIntyre, and two other Stuart, Florida firefighters were injured after Joseph Haas allegedly set a house on fire, sources report. 47-year-old Haas, the home’s previous owner, allegedly tried to burn the home down in December in an attempt to commit insurance fraud. He was just booked into police custody on charges of arson, grand theft, and arson resulting in injury to another and is being held on a $1.5 million bail bond. Haas may also face legal action from the bank that owned the property and his insurance company, not to mention the three victims of the fire. It is unclear whether he has hired a criminal defense lawyer.
According to reports, Haas and his now ex-wife failed to keep up with their mortgage payments on their home, located on Southwest Blue Water Way in Stuart. In April 2012, the former couple lost the home to a foreclosure lawsuit and Bank of America took ownership of the property. Someone who had been living in the home reportedly told detectives that Haas threatened to set fire to the home before the incident. Haas had been staying at a hotel in the months following the foreclosure, reports say.
The fire started on the morning of December 27. Firefighters from the Martin County fire department arrived to extinguish the fire, and McIntyre and two other firefighters sustained injury, reports say. Paramedics air-rushed McIntyre to the Jackson Memorial Burn Center in Miami; he has since had several surgeries on his wounds. Another firefighter, who reports did not identify by name, was taken to the Martin Memorial South Hospital in Stuart; reports say his wounds were less serious and he is out of the hospital. A third firefighter received medical treatment on the scene.
Detectives with the State Fire Marshal’s office began investigating the fire soon after and reportedly found traces of accelerant inside the home. The detectives declared the fire an act of arson upon that discovery. Police officers also found the cans with trace amounts of gasoline near the burned home’s front door, sources say. A sample taken from one of the bedroom floors also reportedly showed the presence of gasoline.
Haas spoke briefly with reporters as he walked into the sheriff’s office and said, “I didn’t burn the house down intentionally.” However, detectives say they have evidence to contradict that statement. On the morning of the alleged fire, Haas claims he was at his job in Sanford, but cellphone records show otherwise, detectives say. The records indicate Haas was in Palm Beach County and not Sanford during that time, reports say.
Surveillance footage taken from a business near Haas’s home show what appears to be his truck driving from Northlake Boulevard to Interstate 95. Another surveillance camera near the crime scene reportedly shows his truck pulling onto Kanner Highway shortly before the fire. Haas says he did in fact drive to Stuart to pick up some items, and that he might have accidentally dropped a lit cigarette inside the home. However, he denied intentionally setting the home on fire.