Suffolk resident charged with arson after high rise fire sends two to hospital

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Posted at 5:40 AM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 12:03:37-04

SUFFOLK, Va. - Crews responded to a high rise fire Tuesday morning.

Reports about the fire came into officials just after 4 a.m.

The fire was at the Suffolk Tower Apartments on N. Main Street, and officials originally said there were "multiple rescues" happening.

Later on scene, officials told News 3 five people had been rescued; two of them received emergency medical assessment and treatment from Suffolk Fire & Rescue personnel before being taken to a local hospital for further treatment.

A firefighter sustained minor injuries due to smoke inhalation, and officials said 60 firefighters were attacking the three-alarm fire.

The Suffolk Fire Marshal's Office confirmed that an occupant of the fifth floor, 69-year-old Herbert Macarery Boothe, who was initially medically evaluated, has been placed under arrest on a charge of Arson of an Occupied Dwelling. Additional charges of assault and battery on a police officer and sexual battery were placed during Boothe's stay at the hospital after he allegedly scratched a nurse's chest and spat in a police officer's face.

According to recent information from building officials, the apartment building includes 50 occupied units and a total of 118 people living there.

A total of 32 people have been displaced, and building officials are currently working with the Office of Emergency Management to determine potential lodging needs. Firefighters are checking apartments floor-by-floor for air quality.

Fire & Rescue staff are also assisting residents with securing any needed medications and other personal items. Temporary sheltering is currently being provided by Main Street United Methodist Church, located at 202 N. Main Street.

Battalion Chief Chris Cornwell, Suffolk Fire Marshal, says that they are currently working with the property management officials at Suffolk Tower Apartments to ensure that the fire alarm system at the building has been fully restored.

He confirmed that the occupants of the building will be able to return to the premises Thursday morning.

Fire & Rescue staff are also working with property management officials to ensure that working smoke detectors are properly installed in each apartment unit.

Boothe was released from the hospital and taken to the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, where he is being held without bond.

The additional man that was ground transported has been treated and released from the hospital.

This is the same apartment building where almost two weeks ago News 3 reported about a major water leak. All 118 people were temporarily forced out because of the leak.

After a preliminary investigation, officials determined there was a major water leak on the fifth floor of the apartment building.

It then affected the floors below and the basement. Residents received vouchers for accommodations at a local hotel and returned to the building six days later.

The fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the fire.

Stay with News 3 for updates.