Suspect in fire tied to firework appears in court

Man accused of arson in home blaze started by illegal bottle rocket

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter



A transient man made a first appearance Monday in Clark County Superior Court for allegedly setting off an illegal bottle rocket that sparked a Vancouver house fire last month.

Joseph R. Kocourek, 19, faces a charge of first-degree arson, stemming from the July 10 incident in the Ellsworth Springs neighborhood.

According to a probable cause affidavit, fire investigators were called about 8 p.m. to the scene of a house fire at 307 S.E. 105th Ave. During the investigation, a video of the incident was found at a neighboring residence. The video shows a male and female walking in front of the house. The male stops, lights an illegal firework and then hurries away from the area. The firework is seen flying from the street into bushes near the residence. Within seconds, the bushes begin to smoke and flames erupt, spreading to the house.

The flames quickly advanced, spread into the attic and ignited the roof of the 1,000-square-foot, ranch-style house.

All occupants were safely out of the house when Vancouver Fire Department crews arrived.

Damages were estimated at about $60,000 to the three-bedroom house and $25,000 to its contents. The occupants did have renter’s insurance and the owners have full fire coverage, according to Columbian archives.

Heard it ‘go off’

Still photos from the video were distributed to local media outlets. Information provided by residents led to Kocourek being identified as the suspect in the video, along with his then-girlfriend, Breanne Halverson, court records said.

Halverson told police she and Kocourek were the people in the video. She said she didn’t know that Kocourek had lit the firework until she heard it “go off.” She said she later saw black smoke in the area, as well as news reports about the house fire, the affidavit stated.

Kocourek was arrested Friday. He told police it was a “stupid firework” and that he was aiming it toward the middle of the street, according to court documents.

During the hearing, Judge Daniel Stahnke appointed attorney John Terry to represent Kocourek and set his bail at $10,000.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 13.