UPDATE: Woman arrested on arson accusation after leaving 3 kids in house fire

ariquelmy@ledger-enquirer.comMay 2, 2012 

A woman accused of arson after she set a North Linden home on fire late Tuesday and left three children inside was arrested Wednesday, Columbus Fire & EMS officials said.

None of the children were injured because a neighbor realized the home was on fire and got the children to safety. However, a firefighter received burns to his legs while battling the blaze, authorities said.

Latoya Bell, 27, is charged with first-degree arson in connection with the 10 p.m. Tuesday fire at 3920 N. Linden Drive. Bell could face other charges, said Fire Marshal Ricky Shores.

Bell allegedly set some items on fire in a back bedroom and then fled the home, leaving three children ages 3, 4 and 6 inside the house, Shores said.

A neighbor realized the house was on fire before it spread from a back bedroom, Shores said.

“He went in and the fire wasn’t very big at the time,” Shores added. “He got the kids out of the house. They actually walked out of the house. He just went in there and told them, ‘Come on, let’s get out of here.’”

Roswitha Moore lives a few houses down from Bell.

“He was a guardian angel last night,” Moore said Wednesday of the neighbor. “If he hadn’t gotten those kids out, I think the story would have been a lot worse.”

Moore came outside when she saw the first fire truck arrive.

“It was one fire truck after another. Then an ambulance came out,” she added. “When they busted that door open, you could see the soot coming out of the front door.”

According to officials, one firefighter received second-degree burns on his legs. He was taken to the hospital and has since returned to work, officials said.

The children were taken next door, where Moore checked on them throughout the night.

“I just went in there and gave them a big hug and told them everything was going to be OK,” she said. “We just kept going in there, checking on them while they were asleep.”

Moore said relatives took the children from the home early Wednesday.

No other buildings were damaged in the fire, which did about $30,000 in damage to the home and $10,000 to its contents, Shores said. The fire is under investigation.

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