An arson fire early this morning gutted a two-story duplex at 1000 N.J., firefighters said today.
A suspect was detained and was being questioned today in connection with the blaze, which caused $35,000 damage to the rental house and burned for about 20 minutes before firefighters could bring it under control. None of the occupants of the building's two apartments was injured.
Firefighters were called to the house at 3:53 a.m. today and discovered flames and heavy smoke coming from a first-floor bedroom window at the rear of the house when they arrived.
Two engine crews and a ladder company were sent to the fire, and a third engine crew was called to the scene because of the large amount of flames and smoke.
FIRE CAPT. Donald Knight said flames coming from the first floor damaged an exterior stairway. The occupant of the second-floor apartment, Charles Baker, was trapped because the stairway was his only escape route.
Knight said Baker, who awoke when he smelled smoke and then saw sparks floating upwards from the first floor, was forced to jump from the burning building. Baker jumped about 10 feet to the ground, Knight said.
Knight said the occupant of the first-floor apartment, Daneka M. Pope, escaped along with her three children, ages 6, 3 and 1.
Two of the children, Knight said, normally slept in the bedroom most heavily damaged by the fire. But because of a domestic disturbance, he said, Pope had all the children out of their rooms.
CHRIS Mulvenon, Lawrence police spokesman, said officers were called to the residence four times between midnight and the time the fire started to investigate what apparently was an ongoing disturbance between Pope and the arson suspect.
Mulvenon declined to release information about the suspect's identity or his relationship to Pope.
He said detectives are assisting Lawrence firefighters in the arson investigation and were continuing this morning to question the suspect.
Firefighters this morning said they believe the fire was started using a flammable liquid. Investigators would not release other details of their investigation.
Neither Baker nor Pope could be reached for comment.
Mike Murphy, the owner of the residence, said he purchased the building in the early 1970s. He said the building once was a grocery store with an apartment on the second-floor for the store owners. The ground floor later was converted to a separate apartment.
Murphy estimated the store went out of business at least 25 years ago.