Rochester Police are looking for the man they say could be connected to a fire which killed one person and injured several others.
Champagne Singleton, 34, died in the fire. Six others were taken to the hospital.
Police say they believe this was a case of arson and homicide, and they say that Lawrence Dash, 62, is a person of interest.
The fire broke out on Hertel Street in Rochester at around 8:00 Monday night. Firefighters rushed to the scene, but say there was little they could do because the fire was so intense when they arrived.
Some of the people inside the home ended up jumping from a second story window.
Rochester Police held a news conference on Tuesday, where they said it was incredible that anyone survived.
“It’s only by the grace of God, as well as the willingness of neighbors to assist that there wasn’t additional loss of life on Hertel Street, including that of innocent children,” said Lieutenant Frank Umbrino of the Rochester Police Department.
The house is now boarded up, but, despite a quick response from first responders, the fire spread quickly throughout the house and a woman inside it was unable to be saved.
Willie Robinson didn’t know his neighbors, as he had just moved to a nearby home two weeks ago, but when the house at 30 Hertel Street went up in flames, he jumped into action.
“It was so much smoke, all the smoke was coming out the window…period,” said Robinson. “When I ran up the whole front porch in there all the smoke was coming out. I heard the windows busting. That’s how bad it was, the windows was busting.”
Robinson rushed to their aid, helping brace the fall of two women from a second story window, and catching a girl who had jumped.
The scene was a total loss.
“I’m not used to this. All I did was just what any human would do. I mean, I was just running up to a burning house and I see people try and jump out the window,” said Robinson. “Why not try to help them?!”
Although the fire department showed up within three minutes of the first 911 call, first responders say the fire was so heavy in the front of the house that they had to fight the fire before running inside to save everyone.
“These men and women that respond to these things will risk their lives to go into a building to rescue people,” said Captain Ted Kuppinger. “That’ll tell you about some of the conditions that they were facing if they were unable to get in the building right away.”
Rescuers found the body of Champagne Singleton on the second floor of the burning home.
They’re now investigating the fire as an arson/homicide, and are testing samples to see if an accelerate was used.
Lee Bryant, a family member of the homeowner and the victim discussed Lawrence Dash, who is a person of interest but has not been charged with a crime.
“The person of interest is well known to the family, but he’ll be getting his due when he’s caught,” said Bryant. “It’s about time for him to pay for what he’s done.”
“It’s madness man! For somebody to start a fire with kids in the house, probably knowing there’s kids in the house…it’s just dead wrong,” said Robinson.
Bryant thanked Robinson for his efforts, though both men were shattered after learning the fire was intentionally set.
Police say that this was no accident and that the house was targeted.
Nobody is staying at the house, and some of the children who escaped the fire are with family members. The Red Cross is also assisting.