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Arrest in UNH arson spree

Peterborough man, 22, was on-call firefighter for town

A former Peterborough firefighter and EMT was arrested by Durham police on Monday, following a nearly seven-month investigation into a series of fires in Durham in the early morning hours of Feb. 2.

Gregory J. Potter, 22, of Peterborough was charged with five counts of arson, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of falsifying evidence, according to a Durham police press release.

According to published reports, Durham police said Potter set fires at five buildings that contained apartments housing University of New Hampshire students. One building burned to the ground. Deputy Police Chief Rene Kelley said Potter is not a University of New Hampshire student, but was in town visiting friends the night the fires broke out.

Following his arrest, Potter was booked at the Durham Police Department, where bail was set at $100,000 cash. He was taken to the Strafford County House of Corrections, pending arraignment in 7th Circuit Court, Dover, scheduled to take place today.

On Monday, Peterborough Town Administrator Pam Brenner said town officials were notified of the investigation in mid-February, after Durham police and the State Fire Marshall’s Office identified Potter as a suspect. Potter, who was an on-call firefighter and EMT, was placed on administrative leave by the town on Feb. 13. Brenner said Potter resigned his position with the town on April 1.

Brenner referred questions about whether there are other investigations into Potter’s activities to the State Fire Marshall’s Office. The Ledger-Transcript was unable to contact that office prior to deadline.

Potter is charged with five counts of arson for allegedly starting fires in Durham on Feb. 2 at 15 Main St. at 1:06 a.m., 6 Main St. at 1:45 a.m., 19 Main St. at 2:30 a.m.; 20 Main St. at 2:48 a.m. and 4 Smith Park Lane at 3:30 a.m.

The Smith Park Lane fire also allegedly damaged a 2003 Nissan Maxima and a 1999 Volkswagen Gulf, which led to the criminal mischief charges.

Potter was charged with falsifying physical evidence. He allegedly “purposely deleted six photos from his cellular phone so as to impair their availability in an arson investigation conducted by the Durham Police Department,” according to the Durham press release.

The Durham Police Department was assisted in the investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the N.H. State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Strafford County Attorney’s Office, the N.H. State Police Crime Lab, the University of New Hampshire Police Department and the Durham Fire Department.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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