March 9, 2013

Plattsburgh man remains critical


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Daniel W. Burke remained in critical condition at Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington on Friday.

The Plattsburgh man, 60, set himself afire in his home at 3 Charles Way in the city on Wednesday night in an attempt to kill himself, police say, and the investigation is continuing.

The mobile home, divided into two living units by a wall, was destroyed in the blaze; left homeless were Burke’s girlfriend, Sandra Smith, 62, and Donald Giddings, 19, who also lived in the structure.

Giddings said that, on Tuesday, he overheard Burke saying he had 5 gallons of gas in the back of his truck.

And Burke had talked about using it to set the house afire, Giddings said, “but I didn’t think anything of it.”


A neighbor who heard breaking glass called police just before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, and four City of Plattsburgh police officers who responded were trying to talk to Burke from outside the home when the lights went out and fire glowed from the bedroom. 

Officers Joel Vassar, Richard Tucker, Charles Wolfe and Adam Wood broke down the door and found Burke lying on the bed, the lower half of his body “completely engulfed in flames,” Lt. Patrick Rascoe said.

The officers beat at the flames, their uniforms catching fire, as they carried Burke out of the burning mobile home.

With first- and second-degree burns on half his body, he was taken to CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh then transferred to the Burlington hospital.

Burke told the officers that he was trying to kill himself, City Police Chief Desmond Racicot said.

The investigation was moving forward, he said Friday.

“There will be a point where the victim will have to be interviewed,” he said.


The residence and personal items in it have been deemed a total loss, Racicot said. 

The extreme heat and flames also damaged two neighboring homes, partially burning down a nearby fence and forcing all neighbors to evacuate

“No one was hurt besides Burke; his life was saved by officers,” Rascoe said. 

Police believe the incident was isolated and involved only Burke, but they are looking to speak with anyone with information related to it, Racicot said.

No one but Burke was in the residence at the time, said City Police Capt. Michael Branch.


North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross disaster-response volunteers provided immediate emergency aid to Giddings and Smith, including comfort kits, financial aid for food, clothing, shoes, seasonal garments.

One person was provided with temporary lodging, a press release said, but it didn’t specify whether it was Smith or Giddings.

About two hours before the fire, Burke was arrested on Margaret Street by City Police and charged with driving while intoxicated.

He was taken to the Police Station and released to a sober person.

Burke is also out on bail, charged with second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child, both misdemeanors. 

It is alleged that he molested a child younger than 14.

— Cardinal Points staff Jordain Moore and Bailey Heinzerling contributed to this report.