Woman admits guilt in blaze that led to firefighter's death

Brandi Pritchard admitted to setting fire to the house she rented in order to collect insurance payments

By Bill Estep
Lexington Herald-Leader

ADAIR COUNTY, Ky. — An Adair County woman has admitted deliberately setting a blaze that led to the death of a firefighter.

Brandi Pritchard, 41, of Columbia pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Bowling Green to one charge of arson and one charge of mail fraud, according to her plea agreement.

Pritchard admitted taking part with her husband, Steve Allen “Boo” Pritchard, in a plan to set fire to the house they rented in order to collect insurance payments.

Brandi Pritchard had bought a $50,000 renter’s insurance policy in June 2011. When Steve Pritchard heard about the policy, he suggested they could burn the house to collect money, according to her plea agreement.

Steve Pritchard said he’d set fires to collect money before, the document said.

A few days later, Steve Pritchard sent Brandi Pritchard’s two children from a prior marriage and the family dog to stay with friends for the night.

He then set fire to the house in the early-morning hours and drove Brandi Pritchard to her job in Somerset, according to the plea document.

While battling the blaze, Charles Sparks, assistant chief of the Columbia Fire Department, suffered a heart attack.

He did not recover and died just over a week later.

Brandi Pritchard submitted a fraudulent claim by mail to Grange Insurance Company, listing numerous items she didn’t own, according to a release from U.S. Attorney John E. Kuhn Jr.

The company paid the full value of the policy, and she and Steve Pritchard shared the money, Kuhn said.

Brandi Pritchard faces a minimum sentence of seven years in prison and will be required to pay $50,000 in restitution, her plea deal said.

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