Dog starts DeWitt fire that led to man being tased by police; dog, cat died in blaze

DeWitt, N.Y. — A fire in a mobile home park in DeWitt Friday that killed…

DeWitt, N.Y. — A fire in a mobile home park in DeWitt Friday that killed two pets and led to a man being tased during a confrontation with police was started by a dog, according to fire officials.

Around 8:30 a.m., a residential fire was reported at the Midler Meadows Mobile Home Park, 407 North Midler Ave., according to Onondaga County 911 Center dispatches.

When fire crews arrived, flames were raging through the first quarter of the home, East Syracuse Fire Chief Chris Shields said.

As firefighters worked to knock down the blaze, the homeowner told police she thought the fire may have been started by her dog turning on an electric burner on the stove, Shields said. She was visiting a friend nearby when the fire started, he said.

The dog would often try to eat trash so she put her trash can on the stove, Shields said. In the past, the dog has jumped onto the stove and turned on the burner while trying to get to the trash can, he said.

The owner has been inside the home every time this happened and was able to turn it off quickly, he said.

During the investigation, fire officials found evidence that supported the woman’s suspicions. The fire began in the kitchen, the burner was still on after the fire was put out and the remnants of the trash can were found melted on top of the stove, Shields said.

There were three cats and the dog in the home. At least one cat and the dog died in the fire, Shields said. He said he could confirm that one cat escaped but ran away and another cat is missing.

It only took firefighters around 10 minutes to put out the flames but crews were assessing the damage for over an hour.

Around an hour after firefighters arrived, James Athey, 32, of Syracuse, arrived at the park and attempted to go inside the smoldering home.

Athey had a previous domestic relationship with the homeowner, said Lt. Jerry Pace, a spokesperson for DeWitt police.

He was distraught over the death of the animals and began a confrontation with the homeowner, neighbors, police and firefighters.

Police walked him away from the home and tried to calm him down.

He continued to swear at police. During the confrontation with the officers, he swung his arm toward an officer. Seconds later, he was shot with a taser gun and collapsed to the ground.

Athey was arrested and brought to a local hospital for evaluation, Pace said. He was issued an appearance ticket at the hospital and released.

Athey was charged with the following:

  • Obstructing fire fighting operations
  • Resisting arrest
  • Second-degree harassment
  • Disorderly conduct
Man tased at East Syracuse fire

The man in the green hooded sweatshirt was tased by police after becoming aggressive towards officers attempting to get him away from the home in DeWitt that burned on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. Anne Hayes | [email protected]

Staff writer Anne Hayes covers breaking news, crime and public safety. Have a tip, a story idea, a question or a comment? You can reach her at [email protected].