SARANAC LAKE - Village police have charged a local woman with intentionally setting a fire that damaged a Park Avenue apartment building in May.
Nancy G. Nixon, 34, was arrested at 2:27 p.m. Sunday and charged with three felonies: second-degree arson, second-degree criminal mischief and eight counts of first-degree reckless endangerment. She was arraigned in village court and remanded to the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $25,000 cash bail or $50,000 bond.
Nixon didn't live in the apartment building, village Police Chief Bruce Nason said. He said the eight counts of reckless endangerment reflect the number of people who were in the building on the night of the fire.
(Photo — Saranac Lake Police Department)
Firefighters work in the early morning hours of May 23 at the scene of a fire at an apartment house at 169 Park Ave., Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise file photo — Peter Crowley)
The blaze at 169 Park Ave., a former cure cottage with seven apartments owned by the Nicastro family, broke out around 1:30 a.m. on May 23. The building's tenants escaped unharmed, although some had to use its fire escapes to get out.
Fire damage was mostly contained to a second-floor hallway, where investigators later determined the blaze started. Preliminary evidence led police to believe the fire was started intentionally using some kind of accelerant.
In July, police announced they were looking for a car that was seen in the Park Avenue area on the night of the fire. It was described as a dark brown or maroon four-door sedan, possibly a Ford Taurus, with heavy damage on the driver's door.
Nason said Nixon had access to a car that fit that description. That and other information provided by the public ultimately led to Nixon's arrest, he said.
"It was a combination of the fact that she had a vehicle that was close to the vehicle seen that night, as well as somebody called us and identified her as a person we needed to look at," Nason told the Enterprise this morning. "It definitely was a lead from the public that led us to her, and we certainly appreciate everything the public has provided us as far as tips and information."
Asked what Nixon's motive might have been for setting the fire, Nason said there was a disagreement between her and someone who lived in one of the building's apartments. He declined to go into further detail about the disagreement as he said police are still following up on additional leads.
The chief also said he's still waiting for the results of laboratory testing, four months after the fire, to determine what kind of accelerant was used to start the fire. Nason said the department sent evidence in to be analyzed. It was returned, but later, at the lab's request, police had to send the same evidence back for additional analysis and confirmation.
"This is a serious offense, and I'm very proud of the work our officers put into this," Nason said of the case. "Since that morning, we have been working nonstop, following up on leads and getting assistance from various agencies, including Franklin County Cause and Origin investigators and state police."
The investigation is ongoing, and Nason encouraged anyone who might have additional information to call the police department at 518-891-4422.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.