TUPPER LAKE — A suspicious fire destroyed an apartment building here early Tuesday morning and forced five residents to flee into the streets.

Tupper Lake Fire Chief Kenneth Gravlin said the blaze at 16 Lake St. started in a back apartment on the second floor.

“It’s still under investigation, but it’s suspicious.”

The apartment, No. 4, was most recently home to three people arrested in Long Lake last Friday for allegedly having 3.5 ounces of cocaine stowed in their car.

Jennifer D. Baker, 28; Matthew D. Baker; 29, and Christopher J. Silva, 26, all reportedly lived at the apartment where the fire began.

They were arraigned last Friday and sent to Hamilton County Jail on $15,000 cash bail or $30,000 bond.

Hamilton County Correction Officer Craig Small said Jennifer and Matthew Baker and Christopher Silva are still incarcerated at the facility.

A fourth person in the car, Christopher R. Baker, 49, was released.

Fire officials did not know who, if anyone, was in that apartment Tuesday morning.

But residents in three other apartments in the building were home when fire started to spread just before 5 a.m.

“Three apartments were occupied,” Gravlin said. “Next-door neighbors and one of the police officers got them out.”

Tupper Lake Village Police Officer Wesley Hoyt, with help from Curt McCabe and another neighbor, pounded on apartment doors around the building, alerting sleeping residents of the danger, Police Chief Tom Fee said.

“Curt McCabe woke up a man sleeping in a back apartment directly below the fire.

“Officer Hoyt tried to go upstairs, in the back, but it was too hot.”

Running to the front of the building, Hoyt and McCabe kicked in the glass at the front door, unlocked it and helped one person in a first-floor apartment get out.

Residents upstairs were on their way down when the door opened.

“And tragedy was avoided,” Fee said. “Everybody is fine, and all of the cats and dogs got out safely.”

In all, five people, numerous cats and two dogs escaped harm.

The building, owned by Bill LaFave, was destroyed.

Gravlin said Franklin County Social Services and the American Red Cross are assisting the displaced residents.

In total, 44 firefighters responded to the fire with four trucks, he said.

The fire was out and equipment back in service by 6:45 a.m.

Samples of material from the apartment were taken for testing by the Franklin County Cause and Origin Team.

The blaze remains under investigation.



E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at:

kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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