Joseph Edward Haas: Man arrested in fire that injured Jahwann McIntyre says blaze was unintentional

$1.5M bond upheld for Haas in arson case

STUART, Fla. -- Joseph Edward Haas woke up in the Martin County Jail Friday, accused of setting his own home on fire and injuring a firefighter who tried to save it.

The 47-year-old is being held on $1,505,000 bond and attended his first appearance in court Friday. His public defender argued his bond was "excessive," but a judge disagreed. His bond was upheld.

In court, Haas said he has lived in Martin County for nine years, but resides in Lake Park. He said he is unemployed, and his only assets are the $2.20 in his bank account and his Ford Ranger truck.

In handcuffs Thursday, Hass said, "I didn't burn down the house intentionally."

On Dec. 27, three firefighters were injured battling the blaze at Haas's Stuart home at 1151 SW Blue Water Way. 

Jahwann McIntyre, a 22-year-old firefighter, was critically injured while trying to snuff out the blaze. He spent two weeks in intensive care and is currently in the midst of major skin graft surgeries. 

Two witnesses, a relative of Haas and Hass's daughter, each spoke with investigators. The arrest report states that Haas told both of them, "that he would burn his house down before he let the bank or anyone else for that matter take it from him."

"That was my immediate thought when I heard about the house going up in flames.  I thought of him, because he made that comment all of the time.  'If I can't have this house, nobody will,'" said April Finch, a woman who says she dated Haas for 8 months and lived together for months in the home that burned down.

Finch says it was a tumultuous relationship, and Haas placed a restraining order against her. 

"He put a restraining order against me and I was never allowed to go back and get all of my belongings and now they are all up in flames," she said.

Haas, however, says the fire was unintentional. 

"Haas stated he might have dropped a lit cigarette into the residence but denied intentionally starting the fire," the report says.

Haas initially told investigators that he was in Sanford, Florida at the time of the fire, but later changed his story. 

The arrest report states that investigators have discovered physical evidence at the scene, video of Haas in the area and cell phone records that suggest his whereabouts during the blaze. 

The State Fire Marshall's Office found evidence of an accelerant at the scene and initially classified it as arson.

Crying, Finch said, "I just hope that justice is served for him, that he gets put away for a long time.  So he can't hurt another firefighter or anybody else in this world."

The firefighting community has rallied to help burn victim McIntyre, who remains hospitalized. 

A benefit is being held to raise money for the firefighter at Big Apple Pizza & Pasta at 2311 S. 35th St. in Fort Pierce from 4 to 10 p.m. on Jan. 30. 

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