DURHAM — A 21-year-old Gibsonville woman was arrested Saturday and charged with arson in a fire that severely damaged a University Drive apartment building Friday and left 34 residents homeless.
Guilford County Deputy Sheriff J.C. Monjaras arrested Ricela Salom Rebollar-Valdez at her home. She is charged with one count of first-degree arson, one count of second-degree arson and with felonious breaking and entering in connection with the fire at Springfield Apartments, a woodsy, secluded complex in the South Square area.
She is being held in the Guilford County Detention Center without bond. According to Durham police, more charges may be filed after consultation with the Durham County District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday. Investigators have not released information on a motive.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross arranged housing for the displaced residents at local hotels, said Jessica Powell, area vice president with NNN Springfield Apartments. Food and clothing donations for the displaced residents flowed into the apartment complex office Sunday morning, she said.
“It’s very overwhelming,” Powell said Sunday afternoon.
Donations will be accepted at the Springfield Apartments leasing office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and during regular business hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., later this week, she said.
Ashok Patro, a Springfield resident, said he was walking to meet his daughter’s school bus when he spotted the fire about 3:30 Friday afternoon.
“I saw a lot of flame coming out,” he said Sunday afternoon. The flames were burning through both floors and through the roof of the two-story apartment building. Patro said he called 911, and by the time firefighters arrived police already had the burning building blocked off and were evacuating residents from the building next door.
Patro and his family were among those evacuated to another area of the complex. They were allowed to go home about 6:30 p.m., he said. Their building was not damaged.
He said there had been no other disturbances in the year and a half they have lived in Springfield.
“It’s a calm area,” he said.
On Sunday, the burned building remained surrounded by yellow crime-scene tape, and one entrance to the complex was blocked off. Most damage appeared to have been done in one wing, where the roof collapsed and what remained of the exterior walls was broken and blackened. However, all 18 apartments in the building suffered damage from fire, smoke or water, said Deputy Fire Chief Dan Curia.
No residents were injured, but two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion.