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Man arrested for arson in blaze that injured firefighter

BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon man alleged to have set fire to his estranged wife’s home on the Spruce Fork Road in August was arrested Tuesday on three arson-related charges.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s Office by investigating officer Assistant West Virginia State Fire Marshal Ronald “Mackey” Ayersman with the Fire Investigation Division in Charleston, Daniel S. Grogg, 25, has been charged with first-degree arson; causing injuries during an arson-related crime; and willfully, unlawfully and maliciously setting a fire, all felonies.

According to the file, a fire occurred at 5:33 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30 at a residence located at 805 Spruce Fork Road in the Brushy Fork area to which the Buckhannon Fire Department, Upshur EMS and other county fire departments responded.

Ayersman noted he was assisted by assistant state fire marshal Rick Sovastion and Paul Alloway in the investigation.

“At the conclusion of the investigation, it was determined that the fire was incendiary (arson) in nature,” Ayersman wrote in the complaint.

The file states the owner of the property, Katie Grogg, told law enforcement officials she had received a phone call from her soon-to-be ex-husband, Daniel Grogg, informing her that the house was on fire.

While firefighters were working to subdue the blaze, Daniel Grogg reportedly told law enforcement officers who were wearing body cameras that he had entered the house by “climbing on to the back porch, pushing the air conditioning unit from the west side window of the addition bedroom” and then hoisting himself into the home, Ayersman wrote in the report.

Grogg had returned to the scene while firefighters were trying to put the fire out and told law enforcement “that he had not been at the residence for several hours” and was dropped off at the end of Spruce Fork Road by another individual after learning his house was on fire.

However, “Katie Grogg advised that her soon-to-be ex-husband had never actually lived in the residence and was upset because his name was never put on the deed … and he was well aware that he was losing the home and his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter in the divorce,” Ayersman wrote in the report.

Katie Grogg’s father, Cliff Sponaugle, also reportedly told the state fire marshal’s office that Daniel was being investigated for an unrelated crime; when Ayersman spoke with the investigating officer in that matter, Upshur County Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Gordon, Gordon verified that he was in the process of investigating the case and planned to obtain felony warrants once the investigation was finalized.

The state fire marshal’s office also obtained statements from two individuals, one male and one female, who said they were friends of Daniel Grogg’s.

“Both witnesses indicated that they were present at the home [on Spruce Fork] just prior to the fire occurring,” Ayersman wrote in the complaint.

The two witnesses also reportedly told the state fire marshal’s office that Daniel Grogg “was behind the residence alone for a few minutes just prior to them leaving the scene” initially.

“Video surveillance shows smoke coming up over the roof within 12 seconds of Daniel Grogg … hurriedly coming from behind the residence,” Ayersman wrote.

One of the witnesses alleged Daniel had been upset about damage to his car that he believed his estranged wife was responsible for. The same witness said Daniel had just seen damage that had been done to his car that day and was “extremely upset and literally cried after he saw what …had been done to his car.”

The witness said Daniel then removed a cabinet he had reportedly given to his wife from the garage and “began smashing it in the backyard,” according to the file.

Ayersman noted that Buckhannon Fire Department career firefighter Tanner Smith suffered a knee injury while trying to subdue the fire and had to be transported from the scene to Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Captain Joey Baxa with the BFD said the department immediately contacted the state fire marshal’s office, which arrived on scene that evening to investigate the fire.

“Any time there is a firefighter or first responder injured in a fire, we automatically contact the state fire marshal’s office to investigate,” Baxa said Wednesday morning.

Grogg’s bail was set at $75,000 cash or surety, and he’s being held in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail.

If convicted, Daniel Grogg faces imprisonment for two to 20 years in the state penitentiary on each charge.

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