Muncy man charged with allegedly setting apartment fires while tenants slept
MUNCY – During the early-morning hours on July 10, while other tenants were asleep in the building, Edward Andrews set nine separate fires in his apartment at 24 W. Water St., borough police Detective Raymond O. Kontz III alleged in court papers.
The apartment Andrews, 51, occupied was on the first and second floors of the three-story wood frame structure.
Six tenants were routed from the four-unit apartment building about 3:50 a.m. after another tenant, Larry Aunkst, “discovered the fire and called 911,” Kontz said in an affidavit.
Aunkst, Andrews and the remaining five other tenants all safely escaped the fire, according to investigators.
Aunkst told investigators he had heard the smoke alarm going off in his brother’s bedroom. He and his bother, Dennis, “ran outside and saw fire in the second-floor window of Andrews’ apartment,” Kontz said.
Larry Aunkst ran back inside and began alerting other tenants to the fire.
“He pounded on Andrews’ door, opened it and yelled in,” Kontz said investigators were told. Black smoke was coming from the apartment, Kontz said in the affidavit.
Andrews, who was recently released from a medical facility, has been charged a total of 28 felony or misdemeanor offenses, including six counts each of aggravated arson, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault, Kontz said.
Volunteer firefighters rushed to the scene and had the fire under control very quickly. The fire itself was confined to Andrews’ two-story apartment, according to investigators.
Larry Aunkst told officials that about 10 minutes before the fire, the electricity went off in his apartment so he went to the basement, which is secured with (only) tenants having access to it, and found that all the circuit breakers were turned off, Kontz said.
“Aunkst turned the breakers back on and went to bed. He did not see, hear or smell anything out of ordinary at that point,” Kontz said.
Very quickly after the flames were put out, officials determined that the fire was no accident.
Cpl. Nicholas Loffredo, a state police fire marshal, responded and “found nine different points of origin (of fire) in Andrews’ apartment,” Kontz said.
A veteran firefighter who responded to the fire told a reporter at that time, “This could have been real bad. This could have been a catastrophe.”
Before he was taken to a local hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, Andrews caused a disturbance at the fire scene, prompting firefighters to call state police.
Two state troopers went to the hospital with Andrews, where he was questioned about what happened. He told them that the fire was “an accident,” Kontz said.
During questioning, Andrews “blurted out brief descriptions of the events. He stated ‘It exploded, sparks everywhere.’ Andrews said he ran and ran for like 30 minutes,” Kontz said.
Andrews stated that “a camp stove must have blown up,” Kontz said, adding that “Andrews said he was in the doorway between his kitchen and living room when he lit a cigarette and dropped it. Then ‘sparks were everywhere.’ “
However, Loffredo determined the fire in Andrews apartment was intentionally set with multiple points of origin on both the first and second floors.
Upon being discharged from the local hospital, Andrews was admitted to another facility, where he reportedly told a roommate that he had “started the fire in his apartment, (but that) it was all an accident,” Kontz said in the affidavit.
When interviewed by Kontz at the facility, Andrews told the detective “that he had ‘blacked out’ and was delirious due to not eating, starving, drinking (soda) and smoking cigarettes. Andrews said that he was in his chair when he felt weird and the next thing he noticed he couldn’t breathe because of the smoke and fumes.”
Andrews went on to say he was “out of his mind” and that “I didn’t know where I was. I just blacked out for a period of time.”
Asked about turning off the circuit breakers in the basement, Andrews said he did not remember doing that, “but he did admit that he had gone down (to the basement) in the past and turned off the neighbors’ breakers,” Kontz said.
In his affidavit, Kontz said Andrews told him that “he has had problems with his neighbors because ‘they torment me all the time.’ “
The owner of the apartment building, Dean Avery, told investigators that on several previous occasions, Andrews had “messed with locks and electric stuff.”
In addition to the 24 charges, Andrews faces one count each of arson creating a danger that could have resulted in death or injury, arson to an occupied structure, risking a catastrophe and criminal mischief.
Following his arraignment before District Judge Jon E. Kemp, he was committed to the Lycoming County Prison on no bail.