SPRINGVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — A 36-year-old woman has been charged with arson following Monday night’s fire at a Springville apartment complex.
Sara Lilley, who lived at the apartment complex, is charged with second-degree arson in connection after detectives working the case have been taking witness statements.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia declined to comment on camera before Lilley was arraigned, but he tells News 4 she is well known to his deputies. She has been the subject of sixty-three 911 calls in just six months.
In fact, she has a separate pending criminal case in Springville Village Court accusing her of burglary and petit larceny in October.
Just hours after the fire, before Lilley was deemed a suspect, deputies transported her to the Erie County Medical Center’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) unit for a mental health evaluation, according to Sheriff Garcia. He says just hours later Lilley was back in Springville where deputies later arrested her in connection to the fire.
Neighbors say they believe the fire shouldn’t have even happened. Some told us they’ve reported Lilley in the past.
“Things could have been done to prevent this. It could have been prevented. Absolutely,” Mindy Marrelli, who’s lived in the complex for six years, said.
The fire spread quickly according to neighbors, scorching everything in its path.
“It traveled down the whole porch so fast, so fast,” Marrelli said. “I remember running out of the house, making sure everyone was okay, and I looked back and there was nothing left,” Nevaeh Bailey, Marrelli’s daughter, added.
Jessica Hebdon lived in the complex with her three daughters. She describes the scene as chaotic and says there is little left behind.
“We were all sleeping and my neighbor knocked on the door and was yelling ‘fire.’ I opened the door and it was engulfed,” Hebdon said. “A shell of everything gone…. memories. I’m still in shock I think.”
First responders went to Springbrook Apartments on N. Buffalo Street around 10:40 p.m. Roughly 10 to 12 people had to be rescued.
Some firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation, but no one was severely injured, officials say. They said that some apartment structures and many units suffered extensive damage and some others were destroyed.
Springville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Marc Gentner said “The one good thing — it was not right in the heart of Main Street in the village. So, there is a little bit of room, as you can see, between the buildings. Even that much room helps.”
Four families were displaced by the fire and are receiving help from the American Red Cross. If you’d like to help those affected by the fire, the Springville Area Clergy Association has started a fundraiser, click or tap here.
On Wednesday morning, Lilley was arraigned in Springville Village Court. She’s being held without bail and is scheduled to return to court on the morning of February 6 for a felony hearing.
If she’s convicted of arson, Lilley could spend up to 25 years in prison.
Anyone with information that could help investigators learn more about the fire in Springville can call the Sheriff’s office at (716) 858-2903.
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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.