Durham, N.C. — The woman charged with setting an apartment fire in Durham Friday was the ex-girlfriend of a resident, police said. Ricela Salom Rebollar-Valdez, 21, of 7969 Troxler Mill Road in Gibsonville, faces charges of arson and breaking and entering. Police say she set the fire that damaged 18 units at Springfield Apartments and put 34 people out of their homes.
Rebollar-Valdez was being held without bond Tuesday in Guilford County and could face additional charges after fire investigators consult with the Durham district attorney.
Emanuel Kearney, who lives in the apartment across from where the fire started, said he didn't know the man who lived in Apt. 404, but he recognized Rebollar-Valdez.
"I would see her. I can't ever recall seeing them together," he said. "I know there was some friction there and they had a history."
Durham police had been called to that apartment five times in the six weeks before the fire.
Another resident, Eric Wyrick, told WRAL News that he saw Rebollar-Valdez 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.
Kearney said he'd like to talk to Rebollar-Valdez now. "I was shocked by that, saddened, confused, and I'd like to ask her, 'Why? Why do that, ya know?'"
The Red Cross was helping those lost their homes find food, temporary shelter and clothing.