Woman dies, son critical following rash of house arsons

A firefighter battles a vacant house fire on East 9th Street
Published: .
Updated: .

Update: Jerry Richards later died from injuries sustained in the fire.

INDIANAPOLIS - After an early morning deadly house fire, investigators are warning you to have a fire escape plan for your family.

In all, Indianapolis firefighters battled ten overnight blazes. One turned out to be fatal, and a man is in critical condition at Wishard Hospital.

Flames ripped through a home on the 1100 block of State Avenue home at around 6:00 am, sending the family into panic and killing Anna Richards. The 63-year-old woman tried her best to warn the three other adults in the house.

"I could not even smell anything, you know what I am saying? So I told her she was crazy and go back to sleep and just a few seconds later the windows started popping," said Gary Allen, fire victim, speaking tearfully.

"We tried to get my mom out and we can't find her. I tried to get my brother out of bed and we can't lift him up and he caught on fire," said Mary Whitlock, Richards' daughter.

Whitlock told firefighters where her relatives were located, and firefighters went in and rescued Whitlock's 47-year-old quadriplegic brother Jerry Richards. Paramedics took him to the hospital in critical condition. Both Jerry and Anna Richards required CPR at the fire scene.

Firefighters had been to the home before on EMS runs and knew the layout of the home, which aided in the quick location of the victims.

Arson investigators scoured through the charred home looking for a cause. Because of Anna Richards' death, Metro Homicide joined the investigation.

"Anyone that saw anyone suspicious in the area, saw anything unusual and anyone running from the scene," said Marcus Kennedy, Metro Homicide unit, asking them to call Crime Stoppers at 262-TIPS.

Firefighters say the deadly blaze is reminder for you to have your own fire drill at home.

Gary Allen says sends the same warning.

"Be prepared and don't be like we were. Know what you are going to do and where you going to go," said Allen.

"Make sure that they talk to everybody in the house about that plan and that they are prepared to get out of the house in case of a fire," said Captain Rita Burris, IFD spokesperson.

Allen and Whitlock were treated at the scene and released.

3 IFD Units responded to the scene and no firefighter injuries were reported. It took them about 20 minutes to get the fire under control.

Arson investigators ruled seven of the fires arson. The remaining three incidents are still under investigation

The first five fires happened within an hour of each other.

Here is a look at the timeline:

945 N Dearborn - near east side
Vacant double house
Fire under control in 20 minutes
$25,000 in damage.

12:23 am
1725 Nelson Ave - southeast side
Trash Fire
Under Control in 5 minutes

1602/1604 Nelson Ave - southeast side
Garage and Shed
Fire under control in 30 minutes
Damage is $15,000 to Garage, $1,500 to Shed

2517 E 9th St - near east Side
Vacant House
Fire under control in 20 minutes
Damage is $25,000

34 Karcher St - near south side
Vacant House
Fire under control in 15 minutes
Damage is $75,000

1028 N Delaware - downtown
Historic Kemper house
Fire under control in 20 minutes
Damage is $80,000

1431 S Talbott St - downtown
Vacant house
Fire under control in 10 minutes
Damage is $500

1230 S Meridian St - downtown
Vacant apartment building
Fire under control in 25 minutes
Damage is $5,000

1123 State Street - near southeast side
House fire - the only fire with injuries
Fire under investigation

6:14 am
Meridian and Morris Streets - just opposite 1230 S. Meridian
$500 damage