Woman charged with arson after fire on Mother's Day displaced more than 20 people in Camden

Officials say the suspect, in a fit of anger, lit a male companion's belongings on fire, and the flames spread from there.

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Friday, May 13, 2022
Arrest made in Mother's Day apartment fire in Camden
Authorities in Camden, New Jersey have announced an arrest in connection with a three-alarm fire.

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Authorities in Camden, New Jersey have announced an arrest in connection with a three-alarm fire that displaced 22 people on Mother's Day.

Nakyah Barnes-Nelson, 20, was taken in custody late Thursday. She is a resident of the building, police say.

Barnes-Nelson is charged with two counts of arson and related offenses.

Police tell Action News that the suspect, in a fit of anger, doused a male companion's belongings with perfume and set them on fire on a wooden balcony.

The flames spread from there.

"The agency still has one person of interest we would like to speak with regarding the fire," the Camden County Police Department said Friday.

That person of interest was not identified.

Firefighters responded to the Myrtle Place Apartments on the 4000 block of Myrtle Avenue around 5 a.m. Sunday.

Arriving crews found the two-story apartment building engulfed in flames.

The brick walls of the building at the Myrtle Place Apartments off of Route 130 in Camden are mostly all that remain.

As the roof collapsed, crews upgraded the call to three alarms.

"(Once inside, firefighters) were then able to get to the other units, go in other apartments, make sure everybody got out. So that's a blessing in the course of this tragedy," said Camden Fire Department Chief Michael Harper.

Residents in the Myrtle Place Apartment "I" building say police had been called to their building earlier in the night for a domestic disturbance. A few hours later, those same neighbors woke up to smoke seeping into their apartments.

At least nine families were left without a home. The Red Cross provided families with a temporary place to stay as well as food.

"I opened the door, I see smoke. I ran inside and got my mom out, my brother, started screaming and trying to get everybody out of the building, you know?" resident Nilsa Santiago said.

Santiago said she felt fortunate all of the residents made it out alive.

"That's what matters, the lives. Everything else is material. My mom is OK and everyone else. We didn't lose lives," Santiago said.