CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — A homeless man has been charged in connection to an overnight fire at a Camden apartment building that killed two men and injured at least nine other people. The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office announced murder charges against 34-year-old Brandon Adams on Sunday night.
The fire broke out inside a three-story apartment building around 3:15 a.m. Sunday on the 3400 block of Cramer Street in Camden and took 45 minutes to get the flames under control.
Authorities said investigators determined Adams started the initial fire after receiving information from the community. Adams was later arrested and charged in Camden.
Fire Chief Michael Harper described a chaotic scene when firefighters arrived.
“We had numerous rescues here, just talking to the guys, that were first through here, they were dragging people out from the front and the back, and then we had people jumping out of windows,” Harper said. “They rescued some people via ladders. So it was a hard night’s work for the men and women of the Camden Fire Department. They did an excellent job.”
Despite the heroic actions of firefighters, two men died of their injuries. Officials said at least nine other people and one firefighter, who dislocated his shoulder, were hurt.
“If I could, I would’ve tried to help more individuals that were around me, if it was possible,” Kanora Jones said. “It was pitch black. It was cloudy. It was no ventilation at all. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see, I had to literally crawl.”
Already stretched to the max at three-alarms, Camden called on neighboring fire companies to help fight the fire and a second fire that broke out a few blocks away on the 3800 block of High Street.
The family on High Street was able to get out, but they and about 45 neighbors from Cramer Street are displaced from their homes.
“We’re pretty much family around here, it’s tragic,” Frankie Lopez said. “We tried to help as much as we could with everybody.”
More than 14 hours after the fire, a huge sigh of relief when a member of one of the displaced families was able to go into the building and rescue the family’s three-month-old kitten, Vicky.
RELIEF THROUGH TRAGEDY: Ronnie Zayas’ stepfather was able to rescue the family’s cat Vicky, 14 hours after a fire destroyed their #Camden apt bldg. 2 ppl died in the fire, 8 hurt, including a firefighter. @NJRedCross is helping 18 families. #LATEST @cwphilly @ 10pm & @CBSPhilly pic.twitter.com/mJlfwJmD8G
— Trang Do (@TrangDoCBS3) October 25, 2020
“[My stepfather] forgot the cat and we couldn’t go back and get the cat, so I don’t know if the cat’s alive, we asked firefighters did you see a cat that was alive, could you at least tell us?” Ronnie Zayas recalled. “No one could tell us anything until now, so luckily she is alive.”
The Red Cross New Jersey said it is helping 18 families affected by the apartment fire.
CBS3’s Trang Do and Howard Monroe contributed to this report.
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