May 30, 2020

Woman could face charges in Lee fire

LEE – The woman who apparently attempted suicide by setting a Christmas tree ablaze Monday may face criminal charges by the end of the week, investigators for the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Tuesday.

Senior Fire Investigator Ed Archer and Sgt. Joel Davis of the Fire Marshal’s Office were putting together a case summary Tuesday to present to the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office by Friday, Davis said.

Officials in the prosecutor’s office will decide whether to act on the fire marshal’s recommendations, Davis said.

“Arson is one possibility, but until we sit down with the DA and go over all the elements I won’t know what the charges will be, if any,” Davis said Tuesday.

The marshals have ruled that the fire was set, a situation that often carries an arson charge, although lesser charges also may apply.

Forest Ranger Peter Pelletier and Game Warden Paul Farrington were hailed as heroes for breaking into the Corbett Road home and getting the woman out of the bedroom despite their lack of training in house fire rescues.

They grabbed her from her bed and threw her out a first-floor window to safety.

The incident began shortly before noon Monday when the woman, apparently distraught over relationship troubles with her boyfriend, set fire to the tree, possibly after firing off a few handgun rounds, then called 911. Dispatchers relayed the call to Lee firefighters, who had the dispatchers telephone Pelletier’s office because it’s closer to the fire than the firefighters were.

Farrington grabbed an ax from his truck and both ran to the front door. Farrington smashed a small glass window on the door and reached through it to turn the door handle, Pelletier said. They tried entering the house, but were driven back by heavy smoke and some flames.

The two went toward the back of the house and saw an open back window about seven feet off the ground with a light shining through it, Pelletier said. Farrington helped boost Pelletier through the window, and he got the woman out. When the woman, believed to be in her 40s, became alert, she became distraught.

It was unclear Tuesday whether she remained hospitalized.

On Tuesday, a man who described himself as the son of the homeowner said he and the man’s friends were having trouble finding the homeowner, who might be in Massachusetts visiting friends.

The son said the woman had been living at the house since the summer.

The son and a friend of his father’s visited the house Tuesday and hammered plywood over the windows. The house has a great deal of water and fire damage but is not a total loss, firefighters said.

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