A 24-year-old resident of a boarding home was arrested yesterday after allegedly setting a fire that killed a neighbor and endangered more than a dozen other people.
Jhontue Ryales was charged with arson, homicide and related offenses. Police said she started the fire at the Morris Place Personal Care Facility in Spring Garden after an argument with another resident.
"This wasn't an accident where something was left on the stove or too many things were plugged into one outlet," said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers. "This was intentional."
Firefighters were called to the four-story boarding home for physically and mentally disabled adults, on Green Street near 18th, about 4 a.m. yesterday, Ayers said.
The blaze was one of three battled by firefighters over the weekend, he said.
At the boarding home, they found heavy smoke coming from the second-floor windows, Ayers said, adding that firefighters were familiar with the building because of previous visits for medical issues and problems with the alarm system.
"They knew there were a lot of people in there that had some challenges," he said.
Three men were rushed to Hahnemann University Hospital, where one of them, Charles Johnson, 50, later was pronounced dead. Ayers said the other two were in stable condition.
Johnson's death brings the number of fire deaths this year to 45, compared to 50 at this time last year, Ayers said.
"Every fire causes firefighters some anguish, but the anguish is a little different when it's ruled an arson," he said.
Firefighters also battled a blaze early yesterday on County Line Road in Northeast Philadelphia. Ayers said nine people were inside a residence when the fire broke out at 4:53 a.m.
Firefighters found heavy smoke on the first and second floors. Five residents made it out safely. An unidentified woman and three unidentified men were taken to Frankford Hospital-Torresdale and treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
Ayers said they are expected to recover. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
On Saturday, a busy South Philadelphia Toys R Us was evacuated after a fire broke out on the outdoor signage on the store at 3rd Street and Oregon Avenue about 3 p.m.
The fire was caused by a breakdown in the permanent wiring that illuminated the sign, Ayers said. No one was injured.