Man suspected of burning own home faces judge

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Thomas Fiske, 52, appeared at Providence District Court Friday morning, charged with first-degree arson, as police say he admitted to causing the fire at his Silver Lake Avenue home December 23, 2015.

Police said in court that after officers had interviewed Fiske “a number of times, probable cause started to arise that this defendant had, in fact, started this fire, which was ignited in the basement stairwell.”

Just Thursday, police said Fiske admitted to that.

Shortly after the fire on the 23rd, the Providence arson squad had ruled it was intentionally set.

“We quickly determined that it was, in fact, incendiary. And then through a number of interviews with different folks, we were led to talk to Mr. Fiske,” said Paul Doughty, a Providence arson investigator.

That morning, after the house had burned, Fiske told Eyewitness News he’d lived at the home for more than 40 years, and didn’t have any insurance. He said his 15-year-old chihuahua had been whining about 4:00 a.m., which was unusual; that led Fiske downstairs, where he discovered the fire in the basement stairwell. It blew him across the house, he said.

“We review the comments that Mr. Fiske made on the news broadcasts. And that then becomes part of the investigation, as well,” Doughty said. “Often it’s not the incriminating piece, but gives us some margins to work with – in terms of what his response is when we question him on similar questions.”

Fiske also acknowledged that morning he’d been drinking heavily. According to Doughty, a family dispute preceded the arson, but he would not disclose how the fire started.

“There was a dispute amongst those family members, that we believe is the motive for that arson,” he said.

Fiske was not hurt in the fire and the woman who owns the home was not inside when the fire broke out.

Doughty said that when looking into a fire, investigators often look for the lowest point of the burn.

“We’re looking for sources of ignition that might be plausible in that area,” he said.

Fiske was convicted of felony breaking and entering in May of 2015, leading a judge to order him held without bail Friday.

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