Indianapolis—A rash of fires near downtown Indianapolis has left one person dead and another in critical condition. It was a busy Tuesday morning for the Indianapolis Fire Department. Crews battled 10 fires between midnight and 6:30 a.m. The first five were quickly ruled arson. Those five fires all occurred between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. on the near east and south side of Indianapolis.
Then, a couple hours later... heavy flames were seen shooting out of the back of the historic Kemper House located in the 1000 block of North Delaware Street. This fire was reported around 3:30 a.m. Not long after, two more houses were torched on the near south side. This time a witness was nearby and able to give investigators descriptions of possible suspects. Fox59 is working to get that information.
One of the most serious fires occurred around 6:30 a.m. at a house near State and Prospect. Four people were trapped inside. Firefighters pulled a man and a woman from the burning house. Both were taken to Wishard Hospital in critical condition. Anna Richards, 63, was later pronounced dead. Her paraplegic son, Jerry was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
"I woke up to mom saying the house is on fire. I told her that she was crazy go back to sleep and then I started hearing the windows pop and I ran in the front room and I tried to grab Jerry but the smoke was coming in so thick that I couldn't do nothing but lay him back down because the smoke was so thick I couldn't breathe," said Gary.
Allen struggled and failed to lift Jerry out of his bed.
"It was like a horror film. Instead of buying a ticket and leave, you're just stuck there... you can't leave. Your ticket's not refundable and you can't leave, you're stuck," said Gary.
"I've got kids and I wouldn't see my house on fire, anybody's house on fire, my own worst enemy's house on fire," said neighbor Kim Smith.
As homicide investigators began their probe into what caused the fatal fire, Indianapolis Mayor Ballard stopped by the scene after hearing about what had happened.
Fox59 News was soon on the scene of the ninth and tenth reported fires of the morning. While at the scene of a fire on South Meridian Street, north of Kansas, Fox59 reporter Kjerstin Ramsing called 911 to report another fire directly across the street.
It is unknown if all of the fires are connected.
Here's a look at the time line of when the fires were reported:
(12:03 a.m.) Fire reported at a home in the 900 block of North Dearborn (east side). It was ruled arson immediately.
(12:23 a.m.) A trash fire was reported on Nelson Avenue (near southeast side). (12:35 a.m.) Two fires were reported, a garage and shed.
(12:37 a.m.) Fire reported at vacant home on East 9th Street (east side). Firefighters say this was one of the worst fires of the morning.
(12:55 a.m.) Fire reported at a home on Karcher Street (near south side).
(3:15 a.m.) Fire reported at the historic Kemper House (north side). It's a two-story home that is currently for sale. Fire was under control in 20 minutes.
(3:57 a.m.) Firefighters called to a vacant two-story home on South Talbot Avenue (south side).
(4:36 a.m.) Home reported on fire on Meridian Street, north of Kansas (near south side).
(5 a.m.) Fox59 reporter notices fire across the street at a vacant building, calls 911 (near south side).
A recently formed task force combining the Indianapolis Arson Unit and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating the early morning string of fires. Two ATF agents are working with local investigators to find out who started at least seven arsons. Three of the fires have not been called arson but their causes are still under investigation.
Investigators spent the day Tuesday sifting through debris and taking statements from many sources. They're interviewing responding firefighters who can describe the color of the smoke and flames, as well as suspicious smells at the fires. They're following up with people who called 911 and they're interviewing neighbors and witnesses about what they saw.
Without talking specifics, investigators have told Fox59 News they are following up on some specific leads. No suspects have been named. In the areas of South Meridian and Talbott Streets, neighbors told Fox59 News they saw two young men running in the area near one of the fires in the 1200 block of South Meridian Street.
Two separate sources say they recognized the young males and even gave Fox59 News one of their names. That information has been passed on to investigators, who say they are following up on the tip.