KITCHENER -- A Guelph/Eramosa man charged with arson in connection to seven fires has been found guilty of five counts of arson.

Justin Beal had been charged as part of an investigation into more than 20 suspicious fires in Guelph and Wellington County between September 2016 and October 2017.

He was charged with two house fires in Guelph/Eramosa, two fires that destroyed three buildings in the same township, a house fire in Erin and another fire at an abandoned barn in Guelph/Eramosa.

An agreed statement of facts showed that Beal started the fires because of a fire fetish and to relieve stress.

Court heard that he would drive around at night in his black car and often use a lit cigarette to start the fire while he was still inside the building.

In one case, he became trapped inside and had to jump from a second-storey window to escape.

He told police that he turned himself in back in 2017 because he didn't want to put any more firefighters in harm's way. He was also worried about tying up resources that could be needed in case of another emergency.

Beal is still facing two other counts of arson, but those will be handled at his next court date, which is his sentencing date.

That's scheduled for February.


A previous version of this story stated that Beal pleaded guilty. In fact, Beal offered no contest and was found guilty by the judge.