Cop Saves Family Caught in South Philly Firebomb Blaze

A person of interest was arrested Friday afternoon and is in the process of being charged, police said

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC10's Jesse Gary reports from South Philadelphia where a massive fire broke out early Friday morning due to an alleged accelerant. He has the details on the officer who saved the family from the flames who has made headlines before.

    An arrest has been made in the alleged firebombing of a South Philadelphia home Friday morning. That bomb sparked a blaze that injured three people, including a child, who were saved by a once disgraced police officer, officials said.

    Firefighters responded to reports of heavy smoke and flames along the 1700 block of Sigel Street, near the intersection of 18th and Mifflin streets, around 6:15 a.m.

    Philadelphia Police Lt. Jonathan Josey, who slapped a woman at the Philadelphia Puerto Rican Day Parade in 2012, spotted the blaze before rescue crews arrived and headed straight into the home to alert the family.

    Josey kicked in the front door and helped three people escape. A woman and a child exited through the rear of the home, while a man jumped from the second-story to safety.

    Authorities said all three residents suffered injuries, but it is unclear how serious they are. Rescue crews transported the victims to a local hospital.

    The suspect, identified as 46-year-old Christopher Smith, was taken into custody shortly after the fire, police said. He was arraigned and charged with murder, aggravated assault, simple assault and other related offenses. 

    Fifty firefighters used 20 pieces of equipment to contain the blaze, which was placed under control at 6:56 a.m., according to the Philadelphia Fire Department.  Officials blocked off nearby streets for part of the morning while they investigated.

    The Fire Marshal told NBC10 that they suspect the fire was intentionally started because it engulfed the home so quickly. It likely began in the front portion of the rowhome, which is located in the middle of the block, they said.

    Several of the surrounding homes sustained water damage.

    The American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania is providing financial assistance to a family of four who occupied the home adjacent to the house that went up in flames, a Red Cross spokeswoman said.  Responders are available to assist others affected by the fire and will meet with them if they need assistance, she added.

    Josey, well-known for the 2012 incident that nearly cost him his job, was acquitted of assault charges after a judge decided a video depicting the police lieutenant striking the woman "didn't tell the whole story." The cell phone video garnered more than 1.5 million views on YouTube before it was removed from the site.

    Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey fired him, but Josey fought to get his job back. He was reinstated in August 2013.