A man who was at the center of a tenant-landlord dispute with Gregory Nisbet has been charged with setting fire to a museum at an Ellsworth park a year ago. The fire badly damaged the building and injured a firefighter.

Christopher Kidder, 31, was arrested Saturday night by Waterville police and is being held at Kennebec County Jail in Augusta. He is charged with setting a fire March 2, 2014, at the Birdsacre Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary as well as burglary, aggravated criminal mischief, reckless conduct and two counts of assault.

The fire badly damaged the building at 289 High St. that was the homestead of the sanctuary’s founder, Cordelia Stanwood, an ornithologist and photographer.

Ellsworth firefighter Robert Dorr was seriously injured while fighting the fire when he fell through a floor. Dorr was out of work for several months.

The arrest was the result of an investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office. A fire marshal’s investigator declined to discuss the case and referred all questions to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office, which could not be contacted after business hours Monday.

The sanctuary website said the fire occurred on a bitterly cold night and that firefighters were able to prevent the flames from spreading to the enclosures housing injured hawks and owls. It said investigators at the time had identified a suspect – a vandal unrelated to the sanctuary. The fire destroyed the interior of the building, including rare gold-leaf bird books, personal photographs and other items of historical significance in the mid-19th century house. Firefighters saved some paintings and furniture by covering them with fireproof tarps while they fought the fire, the website said. Other artifacts, including letters from E.B. White, also survived.

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Kidder was described by police Monday as a homeless man from Ellsworth. He earlier had lived in Portland, they said.

Kidder was one of a group of people who rented an apartment on Dartmouth Street from Nisbet. After a deadly fire at a Nisbet property on Noyes Street, the residents complained about code violations in the apartment. They were ultimately forced to leave the apartment, after it was deemed uninhabitable by the city. Through his attorney, Nisbet said squatters then entered the apartment and caused extensive damage.

Kidder spent three years in Maine State Prison for theft and criminal mischief, according to the Department of Corrections. His criminal record also includes charges of eluding an officer, multiple thefts, aggravated criminal mischief and burglary.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @Mainehenchman


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