James Justin Mack Farrar booking photo, courtesy of the Marathon County Sheriff's Department

By Shereen Siewert

A Wausau man accused of intentionally setting a blaze at a west side home is being held on a cash bond, after a probable cause hearing Thursday in Marathon County Circuit Court.

Police and fire crews responded at about 9:40 p.m. March 1 to a home in the 300 block of North 10th Avenue in Wausau for a report of a blaze with one person inside the home. Investigators now say the man inside the home – who called 911 – set two fires, including one in the basement of the home. There, prosecutors say, he allegedly ignited clothing wrapped around a bundle of ammunition.

The suspect has been identified as 29-year-old James Justin Mack Farrar, a convicted felon who was living at the home. A second ignition point was in the bedroom, police said.

During Thursday’s hearing, Marathon County Assistant District Attorney Kerri Puig told Circuit Judge LaMont Jacobson that Farrar told investigators conflicting stories about his whereabouts in the time leading up to the fire but ultimately claimed the blaze began when he was out of the home. When firefighters arrived, Puig said, Farrar allegedly yelled for crews to go to the basement. But Farrar, who was in an upper floor of the home, could not have known of the fire downstairs unless he started it himself, Puig said.

Farrar has a long history of criminal charges in several counties including in Marathon County, where he was convicted in 2019 of second degree recklessly endangering safety, violating a harassment restraining order and bail jumping. Several additional charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement involving five separate cases. The recklessly endangering safety charge stemmed from a 2017 incident in which Farrar pointed a loaded pistol at a neighbor and threatened to shoot the woman and her son. He was ordered to spend three years on probation.

Puig also told Judge Jacobsen that Farrar has a history of missing court appearances and had three prior warrants for failure to appear.

Investigators are still combing through the evidence in the case and formal charges are expected March 17. Judge Jacobson, during Thursday’s hearing, noted that fires are “inherently dangerous to firefighters” and said he would not be surprised if prosecutors ultimately added charges of endangering safety to the expected arson charge.

If Farrar is convicted on the arson charge, he faces up to 40 years in the Wisconsin Prison System.