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Woman Arrested for Allegedly Setting Fatal Fire on University Avenue

By  Dan Rivoli and Trevor Kapp | October 1, 2012 12:29pm | Updated on October 1, 2012 2:39pm

MORRIS HEIGHTS — A 46-year-old woman has been arrested for setting a fire in a University Avenue building last month that killed a man and injured dozens of others, the FDNY said.

Wendy Walston was arrested Saturday for allegedly sparking a blaze in her second-floor apartment at 2727 University Ave. on Sept. 12.

Thomas Galvin, 50, who shared the apartment with Walston, died in the blaze, officials said.

"This senseless fire took the life of one man, and nearly took the lives of several others," said FDNY Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano in a statement.

Ten residents, including a 4-year-old child, sustained serious injuries. Three firefighters were hurt, too, but their injuries were considered minor, officials said.

Walston, however, told authorities she accidentally ignited the massive blaze by lighting a cigarette and some paper and then tossing the kindling on the bed where Galvin was asleep, according to the criminal complaint against her.

"I went to the bathroom and when I came out, the mattress was on fire," Walston told investigators.

Walston was charged with manslaughter, arson, reckless endangerment and assault, the FDNY said. At her arraignment Sunday in Bronx Criminal Court, Walston pleaded not guilty, according to the Bronx District Attorney's office.

Walston remained in custody until her next court appearance on Wednesday.

Residents of the building said if the allegations were true, Walston had to answer for setting a fire that put so many lives at risk.

"I'm angry," said Sammy Kennedy, 51, who lives on the second floor. "A lot of people got injured."

Galvin, meanwhile, was remembered by his neighbors as a pleasant person who mostly kept to himself.

"He was a nice person. He'd say hi to me," said Norma Mendez, 71, who lives on the third floor. "He'd help me carry a package or open the front door for me."

Dannie Short, 63, a friend of 25 years, said Galvin and Walston seemed to love each other.

"Tommy loved her," Short said. "I seen them together all the time.

"They held hands...did everything together," Short added. "She loved him, too. They got along real good."