ALBION, Pa. — Police have charged a man with arson for a fire that left dozens of people without a home in Albion Thursday.
Police said Charles Beck, 34, of Albion, is charged with arson for allegedly starting the fire that left dozens of people without homes with a stolen lighter at the Barnett Apartment Building in Albion.
The Albion Fire Department was called to the Barnett Apartment Building at 32 W. Pearl St., for a fire around 3:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
Fire officials believe that it started in a third-floor storage room.
Beck was arraigned on charges of arson and risking catastrophe in front of District Justice Denis Stuck-Lewis.
According to the criminal complaint, a neighbor saw Beck standing in the hallway near where the fire started. Another neighbor found a blue Bic lighter that may have been used.
With at least 60 people without a residence, the Albion Fire Department opened its doors for residents along with the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Erie County Emergency Management donating food water and places to stay.
Fire officials are still investigating the fire.
Beck is in the Erie County Prison on $250,000 bond.
Jesse Cleaver, Albion Fire Department chief, said the way the building was built and where the fire was, it took about 20 minutes to find it and then another 20 or so to put out.
Residents said they didn’t think much about it when the alarms went off.
“Got my boots and my jacket and came downstairs,” resident Chuck Griffis said. “Thought it was just another someone burning toast or something.”
But when he got outside he found out it wasn’t a drill.
“Everything was OK,” Griffis said. “And then in a short period of time, there was smoke coming out the roof vents. It just started going really quick and really bad.”