WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - A Watertown woman is in critical condition after a weekend fire which officials now believe was intentionally set.
City Fire Chief Dale Herman told 7 News Monday the blaze at 129 North Orchard Street started on the front porch and that it was “incendiary in nature.”
“Investigators have determined the fire originated on the porch and samples of the porch were taken in as evidence and being sent to the State Police crime lab for analysis,” he said.
Seven people were home when the fire broke out in the duplex early Sunday morning.
The owner of the property, Holly Gaskin, lived on the right side of the duplex. She was not injured.
On Monday, she was stunned to hear the fire was set intentionally.
“I would hope in my heart that nobody could be that cruel or bitter or heartless, but I’m hoping that it was something benign and not intentional,” she said.
When firefighters arrived at the scene of the blaze, Herman said residents were still inside the left side of the duplex.
Herman said one woman used a neighbors' ladder to escape.
A second woman was helped down that ladder with Watertown Battalion Chief Tucker Wiley. Both fell to the ground when the ladder broke.
Wiley was not injured. We don't know the condition of the woman who fell.
All six people, including a 5 year old boy, living on the left side of the home were rescued.
Two of the people, a 52 year old woman and her 28 year old daughter, remain at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse.
Officials said the mother is in critical condition, while her daughter is stable.
“I’m really worried about Sharon and Karen. They are a mother and daughter and I’m just so used to seeing them and now it’s like I can’t even get in touch with them because they lost their phones in there,” said Gaskin.
A third person, who was taken to Watertown's Samaritan Medical Center, was treated and released.
“I feel incredibly sad and just crestfallen and kind of helpless. It’s a disaster,” said Gaskin, who said she heard shouting just before the fire.
“I didn’t know if it was an argument so I got closer to the wall to listen and I heard my tenant, Travis, screaming, ‘Get out! Get out,’" said Gaskin.
Gaskin said if someone did set the fire, she wants them to know that she lives in a watchful neighborhood.
“I think there is security footage. One of the homes across the street has cameras so if somebody set the fire then they will be on camera,” she said.
Watertown police said they do have a copy of neighborhood camera footage. They’ll review it and see if it produces any leads.
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross is assisting the survivors.