BABBITT – Former Babbitt Fire Chief Ryan Scharber, convicted of setting fires in the Superior National Forest, was scheduled to begin serving a five-year sentence at the federal prison in Libson, Ohio, on Monday. But, a judge granted Scharber a 45-day extension while authorities search for a facility closer to his home in Babbitt.
In November 2013, Scharber admitted to setting multiple grass fires in the Superior National Forest and attempting to set a fire at Mattila’s Birch Lake Resort in Babbitt. In April, U.S. District Judge John Tunheim sentenced the former fire chief to a year in federal prison for setting fire to U.S. forestland and five years for attempted arson. The sentences will be served co-currently.
In addition, Scharber was order to pay $27,140 in restitution for the cost of fighting the fires he set.
Scharber’s defense attorney Joe Tamburino sought a more lenient sentence and asked that Scharber be allowed to serve his sentence closer to his home and his wife, Stefanie, and their three young children in Babbit.
Scharber, 30, said he was suffering from adjustment disorder, brought on by stress at work and home when he set the fires. People with an adjustment disorder may become anxious or depressed, entertain thoughts of suicide or engage in reckless acts, according to the Mayo Clinic. The mental illness can be short term, six months or less, or be a chronic condition that exceeds six months.
Scharber joined the Babbitt Volunteer Fire Department in 2005 and was elected fire chief in 2009.
His case received national attention and was even a featured segment on the ABC news program “20/20.” Scharber admitted to setting nine fires, including four inside the Superior National Forest.