Man accused of starting Bitterroot Drive fire remorseful but is fighting arson charge
POCATELLO — When 41-year-old Pocatello resident John Woods lit several mortar rocket fireworks that authorities said caused a fire on Bitterroot Drive in July that destroyed one home and severely damaged another, he said he was sorry for an accident he would pay dearly for.
Fast forward three months later, Woods’ attorney said his client is sorry for what happened but remains committed to fighting the arson charge filed against him.
“John is innocent until proven guilty and it’s the state’s burden to prove that a crime was committed and that he was responsible for that crime,” said Woods’ attorney, Shane Richert. “And the state has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Charged with felony first-degree arson, Woods was arraigned in District Court on Monday and pleaded not guilty.
In July, Woods said he purchased $255 worth of illegal aerial fireworks from the Fort Hall Indian Reservation before the Fourth of July festivities. Woods told the Journal in July that on the evening of July 13 at about 9:45 p.m. he began lighting mortar rockets from the driveway of his Goldfield Drive home, which is located in a cul-de-sac at the bottom of the ravine below Bitterroot Drive.
A resident of Bitterroot Drive said that after hearing the first explosion she came outside to investigate the sound. Three additional mortars exploded in the air directly adjacent to and less than 100 yards away from her home.
Pocatello firefighters arrived at Goldfield Drive only to realize the flames were quickly moving up the ravine to Bitterroot Drive. While one fire-engine remained on Goldfield Drive, several other engines and firefighter crews shifted their response to Bitterroot.
By the time the blaze was under control one house was completely destroyed, another was severely damaged and small structures like sheds and fences were scorched, too. The fire caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damages.
“I think I’m going to jail but I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Woods told the Journal in July. “I don’t think I’m a criminal, but I did something really bad. I mean, this is something that little kids do and I’m an adult, so I don’t know what I deserve. But I stand by this. I did this, I own it.”
Woods will appear back in court on Dec. 4. Idaho statute says that a conviction for first-degree arson carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.