A Great Neck women was arrested on arson charges Thursday after allegedly lighting a bush on fire outside Safa Restaurant and throwing lit cigarettes outside several Middle Neck Road buildings, according to Nassau County Police and eyewitness accounts.
Inger McCaskill, 46, allegedly used a lighter to set ablaze one of the plantings outside Safa Thursday afternoon, causing a fire that spread to the exterior of the then-unoccupied restaurant. McCaskill then allegedly fled the scene after removing decorative lights from the outside of the building, engaged in a brief struggle with police and was arrested, according to a police report.
Jorge Suarez, a 14-year employee of the Village of Great Neck, said in a phone interview that he was sitting in his truck near the intersection of Middle Neck and Picadilly roads when he saw McKaskill throwing lit cigarettes outside nearby buildings, including a nail parlor and the synagogue Kol Yisrael Achim.
Suarez said he called out to McKaskill, who walked in front of his truck and confronted him.
“I was watching her and said, ‘what are you doing?’” Suarez said.
McKaskill lit another cigarette and threw it in the truck’s radiator, Suarez said, at which point she left the roadway and continued dropping cigarette butts near the sidewalk.
“She kept walking to go by the restaurant,” Suarez said. “She had a cigarette in her hand, stopped by the bushes and started a fire.”
Suarez said he called 911 and flagged down a passing Nassau County police officer, before exiting his truck and stomping out the fire outside Safa Restaurant.
A manager at Safa said on Friday he arrived at the restaurant after the incident and that no one was inside the building during the fire.
“We came in – there were already police here. They’d already arrested her,” said the manager, who added that he did not recognize McKaskill.
A worker as Kol Yisrael Achim who declined to identify himself said he witnessed the woman throw a lit cigarette inside the synagogue’s courtyard.
“She came here,” the worker said. “She came rushing inside, lit a cigarette and threw it inside the front [of the courtyard.]”
The Great Neck Alert Fire Department responded to the fire with five fire trucks and 20 firefighters and no injuries were reported, according to police.
Suarez said around 12 or 13 police cars responded to the scene.
McKaskill was charged with two counts of arson, petty larceny, obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest. She was arraigned Friday at 1st District Court in Hempstead.