PARIS — A homeless man accused of setting fire to an abandoned building on Oxford Street on Tuesday afternoon appeared in 11th District Court on Wednesday to face a felony arson charge.

Richard L. Baker, 36, told police he started the fire because he needed to keep warm, according to an affidavit filed with the court by Paris police Sgt. Jeff Lange.

Baker has been charged with Class A arson, which carries a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Fire crews were called to the dilapidated building at Oxford Street and Kilgore Lane shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday.

In a police report filed Tuesday, Oxford police officer William Grover said he responded to the the area to find smoke coming from the building and Baker lying in the snow outside.

According to Grover, Baker immediately admitted to setting the fire to keep warm before Grover began questioning him. Grover’s report said Baker was intoxicated at the time, and was arrested without incident.

Baker has a lengthy criminal history and was recently arrested on a charge of stealing alcohol from a Rite Aid pharmacy in Paris.

In court on Wednesday, Baker initially refused a court-appointed attorney, despite the severity of the charge, but was convinced to do so by Judge Paul Cote.

According to Paris fire Chief Brad Frost, firefighters found a small fire in the building when they arrived and quickly put it out. There was little damage done to the building, which has been abandoned for at least a decade, Frost said.

Despite the small size of the fire, Lange said the incident could have ended tragically if it was not spotted earlier.

“If he had fallen asleep, or passed out in the house, the circumstances could have been much worse,” Lange said.

As of Wednesday evening, Baker remained in Oxford County Jail. His bail is set at $1,000 cash.


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