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Woman charged with setting Durham apartment fire

Posted September 2, 2012
Updated September 3, 2012

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— Durham police charged a Guilford County woman early Sunday with setting the fire that damaged 18 apartments and put 34 people out of their homes.

Ricela Salom Rebollar-Valdez, 21, of 7969 Troxler Mill Road in Gibsonville, faces charges of breaking and entering and first- and second-degree arson in the blaze that ripped through Springfield Apartments Friday afternoon. She was being held without bond Monday in Guilford County and could face additional charges after fire investigators consult with the Durham district attorney on Tuesday.

Durham fire investigators determined Saturday that fire started in apartment 404 of the complex, near Martin Luther King Jr. and University drives, around 4 p.m.

"For someone to just set an apartment on fire is ridiculous," resident Adu Sheref said. "That is just heartbreaking. This is inhuman."

Residents displaced from apartment fire seek belongings Residents displaced by apartment fire seek belongings

Eric Wyrick said he was familiar with Rebollar-Valdez and saw her at the building before the fire. She rushed by, not stopping to talk as she usually would, Wyrick said.

Wyrick was present when the fire started, and firefighters credit him with warning many of the residents as the fire spread. He voiced his suspicions Friday to WRAL News.

"It ran across the floor, you could see it shoot across the floor, you know, not like it normally would burn, but like something had been poured," he said.

More than 40 firefighters battled the blaze Friday afternoon, and two firefighters suffered heat exhaustion, but no residents of the building were hurt.

The Red Cross was helping those lost their homes find food, temporary shelter and clothing. 

The Springfield Apartments will also be accepting donations at the leasing office on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. following the Labor Day holiday.  They are seeking non-perishable food items, clothing, towels, toys and pet supplies.

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  • nonemeant Sep 4, 2012

    This is a powerful instance on why I never put living in an apartment complex high on my list of things to do. What your neighbor does such as going to sleep with lit cigs, e.g. But this unspeakable heinous act never crossed my mind.

  • OneLove Sep 4, 2012

    Motive? Anyone heard?

  • Bewitched Sep 4, 2012

    Put 34 people out of their homes, and I assume they lost their belongings to flame and/or smoke damage, I hope no one or their pets were hurt - this woman needs to be put away for a LONG time.

  • sarahanne2 Sep 4, 2012

    Why not attemtpted voluntary manslaughter or attempted 2nd degree murder charges? If you set an apartment building on fire where people live, (unless they can prove temporary insanity and a low IQ) an adult would know that he/she is potentially going to take another person's life.

  • foghat001 Sep 4, 2012

    She should get life w/o parole.

  • chattycat Sep 4, 2012

    You are right Scubagirl, she is crazy! She put a lot of lives in danger and destroyed so many homes.

  • Scubagirl Sep 4, 2012

    sounds like a woman CRAZY to me! No excuse for what she did, scorned or not.

  • piene2 Sep 4, 2012

    It sure sounds like a woman scorned to me.