Press-Republican

September 25, 2012

Arson arrest in Saranac Lake

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — SARANAC LAKE — A woman is charged with arson for allegedly setting an apartment house on fire back in May.

Nancy G. Nixon, 34, faces a number of felony charges in connection with the early morning blaze at 169 Park Ave. on May 23. 

Police suspected soon afterward that the fire, which sparked in a second-floor hallway, was intentionally set using some kind of accelerant. 

A tip from the public, along with months of investigation by Saranac Lake Village Police, led them to make an arrest on Sunday afternoon, Police Chief Bruce Nason said Monday. 

Nixon is charged with second-degree arson, second-degree criminal mischief and eight counts of reckless endangerment, all felonies.

‘OUTSTANDING JOB’

Eight people were sleeping in the building, including a small child, when fire broke out at around 1:30 a.m. 

No one was injured, but several people had to climb through a second-story window to reach the fire escape.

Nason said they couldn’t release information about why the woman allegedly started the fire.

He did say, “There was a disagreement between her and one of the residents at the apartment building.”

Nixon did not live at the Park Avenue complex but resided elsewhere in the village.

“The officers did an outstanding job,” Nason said. “From the morning of the fire until now, they have been following up on leads, collecting evidence and viewing video recordings.”

Nixon was processed at the Saranac Lake Police Station and sent to Franklin County Jail, where on Monday she was still held in lieu of $25,000 cash bail or $50,000 bond.

UNDER RENOVATION

The building, a historic tuberculosis cure cottage, was heavily damaged by both flames and smoke. 

The fast response from Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department and mutual aid from neighboring departments are credited with saving the structure, which was built around 1910. It is listed as the Clara Black Cottage on the National Register of Historic Places.

Saranac Lake Village Code Enforcement Officer Thomas Worthington said the building had to be completely rewired, and renovation is still under way so the three units on the second floor and one on the third floor can be reopened for rental use.

“There has been work done to make the first floor occupiable,” he said, and tenants are living in two of four units there. 

‘SLOW PROCESS’

The property is owned by Betsy Nicastro, who lives nearby.

“It’s going to be a slow process for (the owner),” Worthington said. “We have had inspections for the first-floor apartments. The building meets the minimum for fire-and-safety-code regulations. 

“As they complete the apartments on the next floor, then we will be doing inspections on those.”

Nason expressed appreciation to the public for tips on the case and to the agencies, including Franklin County’s Cause and Origin Team, which assisted in the investigation.

He said the investigation was continuing but could not say if more arrests are expected.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com