CAMDEN – An apartment-building fire that left 22 people homeless here started when a woman used perfume and a lighter to create a blow torch, investigators allege.
Nakyah Barnes-Nelson, 20, then allegedly ignited clothing on a balcony of the Myrtle Place apartments around 5 a.m. on May 8, according to a probable cause statement for her arrest on aggravated arson and other charges.
The statement says Barnes-Nelson tried to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher, “but was unsuccessful.”
The flames spread from a second-floor unit into the building’s attic, and eventually burned out nine apartments, according to Camden County Fire Chief Michael Harper.
The blaze caused damage valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Camden County Police Chief Gabriel Rodriguez said Friday in announcing the suspect’s arrest.
Barnes-Nelson was a resident of the complex on the 400 block of Myrtle Avenue, police said.
According to the probable cause statement, Barnes-Nelson told police she was unhappy with her boyfriend, so she threw his clothing on the balcony “with intentions on lighting them on fire.”
Detectives are still looking to speak with a person of interest in connection with the blaze, Rodriguez said.
The predawn fire caused no injuries, but displaced 15 adults and seven children.
Investigators quickly assessed the three-alarm fire was suspicious, Harper said.
He noted a dog that examined the fire scene “sniffed out some areas where he might have found an accelerant.”
The possible accelerant was found at the “area of the point of origin,” Harper said.
Barnes-Nelson was charged Thursday with aggravated arson, as well as recklessly placing a person in danger of injury and placing a building in danger of destruction.
She’s also accused of making a false report to law enforcement to implicate another.
The probable cause statement asserts Barnes-Nelson initially told police a friend had come up with the idea of burning the clothes and that the friend started the fire.
The charges against Barnes-Nelson are only allegations. She has not been convicted in the case.
Barnes-Nelson was being held Friday in Camden County Jail.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Camden NJ arson: Nakyah Barnes-Nelson charged after Myrtle Place fire