Gwinnett woman charged with arson in apartment fire

A 25-year-old Snellville woman was arrested and charged with arson Wednesday after authorities said she set fire to her apartment in the 2800 block of Spruce Circle.

Charity Nickelson was being held without bond late Wednesday night in the Gwinnett County jail, charged with first-degree arson, a felony, and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, a misdemeanor, jail records showed.

Firefighters responding to the blaze at 5:52 a.m. Wednesday found smoke and flames contained to one room of a second-floor apartment, according to Capt. Tommy Rutledge of the Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

Crews quickly extinguished the fire, and no injuries were reported. The units next to the apartment were vacant and were not directly damaged, so no one other than Nickelson – who lived alone – was displaced, Rutledge said.

The circumstances of the fire were suspicious, the fire spokesman said.

“Police had already responded to the location twice throughout the night, once for an animal complaint, and again after the woman was found in the parking lot with a burning bowl of dog food,” Rutledge said.

Gwinnett County police detained Nickelson for questioning and took her into custody on the drug possession charge, Rutledge said. Subsequent investigation uncovered evidence in the woman’s cell phone, and warrants were obtained by fire investigators for arson.

Details about the evidence and how Nickelson allegedly started the fire were not disclosed.

If found guilty on the arson charge, the woman could face up to 21 years in prison, Rutledge said.