South Williamsport man faces felony arson charges

South Williamsport resident Dakota Fisher told borough police he just didn’t care if he was dead or alive.

So he took a hammer and struck his hands and head with it. He then piled garbage and trash on top of his stove and set the items on fire, Sgt. James Taylor alleged in court papers.

“He told investigators that he watched the fire for a little while, and then sat down on his couch waiting for the flames to come,” Taylor said in an affidavit.

“His (second-floor) apartment filled with smoke, but the flames did not spread so he left” the building at 443 1/2 S. Market St., Taylor said.

On the first floor, three other tenants were in their one apartment with a friend who was visiting them when Fisher, 31, allegedly set the fire about 9:30 p.m. on May 27.

Minutes later, Patrolman Gareck Esposito spotted Taylor, wearing nothing but boxer shorts, stumbling along Market Street.

“Fisher was covered in blood on his face, hands and legs,” Taylor, who soon joined Esposito at the scene, said.

“Fisher told the officers that he had struck himself in the hands and head with a hammer. He said he left his apartment due to it being possibly on fire,” Taylor said.

Just then, a dispatcher alerted the officers that the fire department was being sent to 443 1/2 S. Market St. for a fire.

“This was several houses south of our location. We looked up the street and saw smoke rolling out of the top apartment,” Taylor said. He bolted to the scene while Esposito stayed with Fisher for whom an ambulance was being called.

The fire in Fisher’s apartment activated smoke alarms in the building, but the tenants below, at first, could not determine the source of the problem, Taylor said. Two of the tenants stepped outside and saw the smoke coming from the upstairs apartment.

Two roommates who live in the building, Nicholas Hufnagle and Kyle Caffas, are credited with taking quick action to stop the fire and help ventilate smoke from the structure.

The two “went upstairs and yelled for Fisher. Receiving no response, they noticed Fisher’s apartment door was wide open. Hufnagle told investigators the smoke was real thick,” Taylor said.

The roommates entered the apartment and “found trash burning on top of the stove. Hufnagle said the rear, right side burner was glowing hot. He tried to turn off the burners, but he was unable to,” Taylor said.

Caffas told police that “the knobs on the stove had melted,” Taylor said, adding that Caffas and Hufnagle “pulled the stove from the wall and unplugged it.” The two opened windows to ventilate the apartment.

A third roommate, Elaine Shipton, called 911 to report the fire.

The fire was already out when firefighters arrived, but they assisted in clearing smoke from the unit, Taylor said.

Fisher told Esposito that “he had been drinking alcohol the last couple of hours. Fisher said he wanted to kill himself, and that the hammer and the fire were both a result of him not caring if he was dead or alive,” Taylor said.

After the fire was extinguished, Taylor found an apartment that he said “was in disarray. There were drops of blood throughout the apartment, some dry some wet. There was a bloody knife on a coffee table in the living room. Also on the table were numerous beer cans, a bloody hammer laying near a pool of liquid blood, and note paper with burn marks on.”

Cpl. Nicholas Loffredo, a state police fire marshal assigned to the Montoursville barracks, responded to assist with the investigation. He determined that “this fire was not consistent with an accidental careless cooking fire,” Taylor said.

Fisher has admitted to police that “he intentionally placed items on top of his stove and set them on fire with the intent of burning the apartment house down, “ Taylor said.

Fisher has been arraigned before District Judge Gary Whiteman on a total five felony arson counts (all related to the one fire) as well as risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering and criminal mischief. He remains committed to the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $75,000 bail.


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