Updated Monday, March 23, 12:41 p.m.
BY SALVATORE LICATA AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA
A man was arrested for allegedly setting a fire that caused eight houses in Woodhaven to go up in flames on Wednesday night because his landlord had just evicted him.
Luis Lopez, 30, a tenant at 91-21 90th St., where the blaze started, was arraigned on Friday on charges of second-degree attempted murder, second-degree arson, endangering the welfare of a child and aggravated cruelty to animals in connection to the fire that left eight injured and killed two dogs, the Queens district attorney’s office said. Lopez, who faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, was being held on $100,000 bond, according to court records. His next court date is April 7.
“The defendant is charged with setting a fire that could have killed numerous people and did take the lives of two dogs — all because the defendant was allegedly angry about being evicted from his apartment,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “Arson is a serious crime and the defendant now faces spending a considerable amount of time in prison.”
On Wednesday, at about 8 p.m., Lopez was ordered to vacate the premises of where he was living, according to officials. About 10 minutes later, the landlord and her boyfriend smelled smoke. The door was blocked from the other side and it took them several attempts to escape from their basement apartment, prosecutors said. As the two fled, they saw smoke and an orange glow coming from Lopez’s first-floor bedroom.
By the time firefighters arrived at the two-story home, the flames had spread to the roof and adjacent residences.
About 39 units and 168 members responded to the blaze, which left six residents and two firefighters with minor injuries. The fire also displaced more than 60 individuals, officials said.
“The investigative work by our fire marshals resulted in the timely arrest of this suspect,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “Setting a fire is a serious crime with potentially deadly consequences. Fortunately there was no loss of life at this incident, but tragically the quick moving fire destroyed eight homes before being brought under control.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich, Assemblyman Mike Miller and Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) announced on Friday the creation of a special relief fund by CCBQ to help the families affected by the fire.
Donations will go toward providing essentials including gift cards to local supermarkets, clothing, replacement household furniture and other necessities. Monetary donations can be made payable to CCBQ online at www.ccbq.org or by mail. Contributions should designate “Woodhaven Fire Victims” in the memo. For more information contact CCBQ’s Office of Development & Communications at 718-722-6202.
“We cannot erase what occurred, but this fund will help these families work towards rebuilding for a better tomorrow,” Miller said. “We ask the community to help in any way they can to assist these residents in this time of need.”