Arson suspect awaits court date as community recovers
Crews continued repairing utility lines and clearing rubble Tuesday at the site of Sunday's fire on Main Street, while the man suspected of setting the blaze at the Wilmarth Building awaited a court date. John M. Fox, 48, of Rough and Ready, California, was arrested Sunday by law enforcement officers after witnesses reported seeing him leap from a second floor window at 126 Main St.
Sgt. Robert Danko of the Cambridge-Salem Police said Fox was the person taken to the hospital that night for evaluation of minor injuries. Fox was apparently involved in an incident in Vermont before the fire and had some injuries from that, Danko said. Danko said fire officials are still investigating but after questioning Fox, law enforcement officers had enough grounds to charge him with second-degree arson, second-degree criminal mischief and first-degree reckless endangerment, all felonies. Fox was arraigned in Greenwich Village Court that night and sent to Washington County Jail. It could not be determined whether bail had been set. Under state law, judges can require bail for violent felonies. Fox's assigned public defender, Dustin Bruhns, had no comment. Undersheriff John Winchell said the Greenwich Village Court is handling the case. The court meets weekly at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Kelly Eustis, managing director of the Greater Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, said he was on his way to a meeting at Cloud Nine Coffee Lounge on Sunday when he saw smoke and flames erupting from the Wilmarth Building. It was several minutes before the first firetrucks arrived, according to Eustis. He said four businesses lost their offices: Penny Dot Realty, Clifford Oliver Photography, Judith Klingebiel CPA, and Simply Divine, a hair salon. The building's owner, Marta Ward, had her own office in the building. All the businesses except Simply Divine and the building itself were members of the chamber, Eustis said. Ward was one of the chamber's founding members in 1990, he said. Levy Breaks, an accounting firm, has an office in the former Glens Falls National Bank building immediately north of the destroyed building. Levy Breaks posted on the chamber's Facebook page Tuesday that its offices appear to be undamaged, although the sidewalk that day was blocked by utility workers and crews were piling charred rubble in the parking lot to the side. Eustis said there were seven tenants in the Wilmarth building's upstairs apartments. The chamber is coordinating efforts to help the tenants. "A lot of them are living with family and friends," Eustis said. "Our member real estate agents are offering to help them find places to stay." Chamber members have offered help ranging from temporary office spaces and assistance filing insurance claims to food and mental health support. "A lot of information is coming in to the chamber," Eustis said. "We’re relaying it to whoever needs it." A list of requested goods and services is posted at www.battenkillstrong.org, the chamber’s community support website. The Washington County District Attorney's Office crime victims specialists will be at the Greenwich village offices, 6 Academy St., from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, to answer questions about the rights of crime victims, explain the criminal process and give guidance about available resources to assist in recovery. People who can't come at that time can call the district attorney’s office at 518-746-2525.