A resident at an apartment complex in northern Chester County intentionally set a massive blaze this summer that left her and 149 other residents homeless, police said Wednesday.
Toni Kirk, 30, was charged with causing or risking a catastrophe, aggravated assault, and 250 counts of reckless endangerment. Kirk was arrested Tuesday in Binghamton, N.Y., and was awaiting extradition, according to police in North Coventry.
The fire broke out late July 30 at the Ashwood Apartments on the 700 block of Worth Boulevard in Pottstown. Thirty area departments battled the blaze, which took hours to get under control. Investigators later traced the fire to an apartment on the building’s third floor where Kirk lived, and witnesses reported seeing her leave the unit just before the building’s fire alarms went off, police said.
During an interview with detectives, Kirk admitted the fire started in her unit but denied setting it, police said. Instead, she said someone else staying with her was responsible.
One resident of the complex suffered critical injuries, while three residents and three firefighters suffered minor injuries, Township Manager Erica Batdorf said at the time. Forty-three apartments were destroyed.
“This is a severe and significant trauma, and we’re trying to respond appropriately,” Batdorf said in July, when, donated clothes, food, bedding, and even pet supplies began pouring into the township’s fire company after the blaze.
County officials said in a statement last week that 20 families were still seeking permanent housing. So far, the Chester County Department of Community Development has spent $50,000 on hotel stays for those families and other victims affected by the fire, according to department director Pat Bokovitz.
Donations are still being solicited, particularly furniture for residents still settling into new living spaces through the Community Warehouse Project of Chester County. Donations may be arranged by calling 484-473-4360.
County and township officials are also asking landlords with rental properties in the Pottstown area to contact the Housing Authority of Chester County via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 610-235-4484.