By CRAIG FREILICH
POTSDAM -- Potsdam Police have an arson suspect in the fire that totally destroyed a Pierrepont Avenue multi-unit rental house this morning.
Lt. Mark Murray says charges are pending, but could give no time line on when an arrest would be made or when the suspect's name would be released.
The police noted the time of 1:39 a.m. as when their patrols, Potsdam Fire and Potsdam Rescue were dispatched to the working structure fire at 28 Pierrepont Ave.
"Upon initial response and investigation, the fire was determined to be suspicious in nature," an initial police report says.
"The fire appeared to have been purposely set in a first floor bedroom. The person responsible for starting the fire was subsequently identified and interviewed by police. The investigation is ongoing at this time by both the Potsdam Police and St. Lawrence County Fire Investigators," said the report.
"Arson investigators did not find signs of an accelerant, and everything we got from the interview was consistent with their findings," Murray said.
"We are very grateful for the expedited and highly effective response of the SUNY Potsdam Police, the SUNY Canton Police, and the New York State Police, in getting the investigation going and continued," Murray said.
Everyone was evacuated from the house safely, and no injuries were reported among first responders.
One witness thought that flushing of fire hydrants in the village might have cut water pressure to the scene.
But Potsdam firefighter John Keleher, who was running a pumper truck, said there was no lack of water to fight the fire. But he did say the job of fighting the blaze was complicated by the fact that the house was divided into so many apartments.
SUNY Potsdam spokeswoman Alexandra Jacobs said the college was doing what it could to help the students who were left homeless.
Potsdam Fire was assisted on scene by West Potsdam Fire, West Stockholm Fire, Parishville Fire, and Hannawa Falls Fire Department.