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Bethlehem apartment fire ignited by man using lighter to ‘clean’ items, police report

A Bethlehem man who said he had a compulsive need to clean items with a cigarette lighter told police he ignited a fire in his South Side apartment, sending residents fleeing to escape the flames.

Joseph Matacavage, 53, of the 100 block of East Third Street, is charged with arson that risks death or serious injury, arson of an occupied structure, reckless burning, causing a catastrophe, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. He was arraigned before District Judge Roy Manwaring and sent to Northampton County Jail under $100,000 bail.

According to court records:

Police and fire crews were called at 3:20 p.m. Saturday to an apartment in the 100 block of East Third Street for reports of a fire. Bethlehem police, among the first on scene, found Matacavage standing in the common area of the main entrance to the building.

“What started the fire?” an officer asked Matacavage.

“Me,” Matacavage

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