This page and the other pages in this series are the successors to the series of web-page about the Camden Fire Department that began with the page Camden Fire Department: The Fires of the Summer of 2011. On this and other pages in the series you will find pictures and information regarding different events and aspects of the fire service in Camden, New Jersey.
An early morning fire in the midst of a brief but heavy thunderstorm had a tragic outcome during the early morning hours of June 29, 2012. A fire on the first floor of an occupied dwelling at 1089 Thurman Street spread to the vacant dwellings on either side, utterly destroying 1087 and 1091 and leaving 1085 Thurman so badly damaged that it too had to be immediately razed. Far worse than the property damage were the deaths of two teenagers who were trapped inside of 1089 Thurman Street.
At approximately 5:20 AM Squad Company 7 was dispatched to Thurman Street and arrived on scene to find heavy fire showing from the first floor porch of a two-story middle of the row dwelling. On arrival, Squad 7 reported that people were trapped. The Battalion Chief placed all hands in service, as fire had extended to the second floor and to both exposures. At the 10 minute mark numerous 1-3/4" handlines were in operation. EMS was requested as a woman had jumped from a second floor window and was injured. After gaining access to the building, two bodies were discovered inside of 1089 Thurman Street.
The fire was thought to be in suspicious in nature, and the fire marshal's office and the Camden Police Department began their investigation as soon as the fire was brought under control. It was being treated as a homicide in the days following. As of this writing I do not know if it had been verified as an arson or not.
As with the web page covering other Camden Fire Department events, if you can identify anyone that I've missed, please e-mail me. (I'm terrible at at names and faces).
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|Photos by Chris Williams - www.NewJerseyFireground.com|
|Photo by Dan Statton|
|Photo by Chris Williams - www.NewJerseyFireground.com|
|Photos by Nick Falconiero|
|_____ - _____ - _____ - _____ - David Diaz - _____|
- _____ - _____ - _____ - Craig Bazan
____ - ____ - ____ - Dan Stratton - ____ - _____
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|CBS-3 Eyewitness News - June 29, 2012|
|Camden Courier-Post * June 30, 2012|
Fire kills 2 in Camden
Blaze being probed as arson; resident recently arrested
CAMDEN — Homicide detectives are continuing their probe into a suspected arson fire at a Camden home that claimed the lives of two people early Friday morning.
One of those killed is believed to be the 15-year-old son of a man who was arrested as part of a police raid at the home in the 1000 block of Thurman Street on Thursday evening.
While investigators had not positively identified either victim as of Friday evening, word spread quickly around the community in the hours after the 5:30 a.m. fire that one of those who did not escape the flames was Camden High School freshman Kenny Holmes Jr. An adult woman was injured when she jumped from a second-floor window to escape the flames.
As uncertainty lingered about the second victim’s identity late into the afternoon, one frantic family arrived at the burned-out house desperately looking for answers as they feared the victim could be a family member.
The man and woman said their niece was the girlfriend of Kenny and had gone missing sometime during the night. The woman said when the girl’s mother went to wake her Friday morning she found her daughter had stuffed pillows under her sheets.
The girl’s friend told the family later in the day that she had sneaked over to Kenny’s home during the night.
Camden County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Jason Laughlin said investigators had spoken to the girl’s family but would not be able to confirm the identity of either victim until receiving the results of dental comparisons. Both victims died from smoke inhalation.
Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson said the fire, which heavily damaged the front of the home as well as two neighboring row homes, is being investigated as arson. Other law enforcement officials confirmed the deaths are being investigated as suspected homicides.
Throughout the morning, groups of area residents gathered on porches and nearby corners in the Liberty Park neighborhood as homicide investigators and fire officials talked in groups in front of the burned-out home.
As word of the fire spread, friends and relatives began to arrive, believing one of the victims to be Kenny.
The teen’s classmate, Cynthia Peralta, and her sister Jasmine Ramos were among those dumbfounded that the popular neighborhood teen, who was said to spurn the streets for the athletic fields, was believed to be dead.
“Everywhere he went he had a smile on his face,” Ramos said.
The girls said they were sitting on their step Thursday evening when, as he traditionally did, Holmes called out to them as he passed by.
Peralta said the teen seemed to do well in school and stayed away from trouble.
“He just liked to hang out with his friends,” she said.
If the fire was intentionally set, the girls and others couldn’t imagine the target of the blaze to be Kenny.
Laughlin said detectives are looking into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of the teen’s father, Kenneth Holmes Sr., on Thursday as part of the investigation.
Laughlin said on June 20, a 22-year-old woman came to police and requested a restraining order against the elder Holmes and sought to have charges pressed against him. As part of that investigation, police arrested the 33-year-old on Thursday evening.
In a subsequent search at the home, police also recovered drugs, Laughlin said.
Holmes was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, making terroristic threats and drug and weapons charges and he was remanded to the Camden County Jail, where he remained as of Friday.
It was only hours after the police search that neighbors such as Alim Taylor awoke to find flames shooting from the front of the two-story home. Taylor said a woman who had jumped from the home was on the street screaming frantically for help.
The woman, who was not identified, is believed to be the girlfriend of Kenneth Holmes Sr. She was taken to Cooper University Hospital for unspecified injuries.
“The only thing I could think of is why would anyone do this with kids in the home,” Taylor said of setting the house on fire.
Authorities said firefighters arrived to find heavy fire in the front of the home. Flames spread to two neighboring homes before firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control.
It wasn’t until midmorning on Friday that the two victims’ bodies were removed from the home as homicide investigators looked on.
Garlin Holmes, 33, was among those in the crowd that made its way to the scene Friday morning.
Garlin Holmes, the teen’s older cousin, said Kenny was looking forward to playing varsity football and basketball next year.
“He’s a fun-loving young man,” Holmes said. “He wasn’t a streets guy. He stuck to playing sports and stuff like that.”
Garlin Holmes said his cousin’s death is the second blow to the large extended family this year. On May 13 another cousin, 29-year-old Shaun Carter, was gunned down around 4 a.m. on the 700 block of Vine Street in North Camden.
“It’s sick,” Garlin Holmes said.
Garlin Holmes said he was at his mother’s house on Thursday night when Kenny stopped by looking for information about his father’s arrest.
David King, pastor of a nearby church, made his way to the scene early Friday to see if any of his parishioners were affected by the fire.
King later talked with the teen’s grandfather and offered his support.
“Right now the whole family is in a state of shock,” he said. “It’s messed up to wake up and find out your family is dead.”
If the deaths are ruled homicides, it will be the second time this year that an intentionally set blaze claimed a life in Camden.
On March 2, Paul Johnson, 65, was found dead on the second floor of a burning home in the 1200 block of Decatur Street. The fire was ruled to be arson and Johnson’s death ruled a homicide..
|Philadelphia Inquirer * June 30, 2012|
|Fire in Camden kills two
By Claudia Vargas
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Camden fire and law enforcement officials are investigating a Friday
The fire broke out after 5 a.m. on the 1000 block of Thurman Street, quickly spreading to adjacent rowhouses. By the time firefighters arrived, the house was enveloped in flames, Fire Chief Michael Harper said.
A woman, whom police did not identify, escaped by jumping from a second-floor window.
Though police did not identify either victim, Camden High principal James A. Thompson confirmed that Kenneth Holmes Jr., 15, died in the fire.
"He was an easygoing kid" who got off to a rough start but by the end of the school year finished 15th in his class of close to 200 students and had a 3.0 grade-point average, Thompson said. He also was on the basketball team.
"He was resilient rather than succumbing to what a lot of students succumb to," Thompson said.
Holmes' neighborhood is one of the roughest in Camden, with boarded-up houses and open drug markets.
"Our students have to overcome far more than [students] in surrounding
Holmes' father, Kenneth Sr., 33, had been arrested on weapons charges
Charges against Holmes included unlawful possession of a firearm and
Holmes' bail, set at $200,000, had not been posted as of late Friday
Authorities could not say whether Holmes' arrest and the fire were related. Laughlin said the fire "had the possibility of being suspicious."
Neighbors woke up sometime after 5 a.m. to the smell of smoke and the
"I thought it was a fight," Angel Cruz, who lives around the corner, said.
When Cruz came outside about 5:30 a.m., he saw the woman who had
"She was lying on the ground crying, and saying that there were two other people inside," Cruz said.
The fire was brought under control by 6 a.m. As the Fire Marshal's Office and Camden County Prosecutor's Office investigated, neighbors and friends gathered to watch and console one another.
Chris Carmickel gazed at the investigators while playing with a basketball
Carmickel, 16, an incoming junior at Camden High, had played basketball
"He's funny, man," Carmickel said softly. "He's my partner. . . . We were
Holmes was described as a good friend who loved sports, especially
"He was the best," Carmickel said.
|WPVI-6 Action News * May 26, 2012|
July 1, 2012
Photos by Phil Cohen
|1083, 1085, 1087, 1089 & 1091 Thurman Street. 1085 through 1091 were being razed..|
|Camden Courier-Post * July 10, 2012|
Two moms bond over loss after Camden fire
Women support each other in grief
CAMDEN — In a cozy second-floor bedroom overlooking a quiet city street, silver stilettos and worn pink flip-flops sit in a line of shoes beside Qua’Nyrah Houston’s neatly made bed.
Montika Lowe stood in the quiet room, once a sanctuary for her 15-year-old
Lowe has waited for that dreaded visit since two people were found dead in a June 29 house fire in the city’s Liberty Park section. She doesn’t plan on leaving home again until the detectives arrive.
“I believe in my heart it’s her,” Lowe said. “I hate it. But I want to put her to rest.”
DaBriah Pace received that visit last week when investigators confirmed one of the victims was her son, Camden High School freshman Kenny Holmes Jr. Investigators are waiting on the results of a DNA analysis to confirm Nyrah’s death.
It’s believed that Nyrah, a Woodrow Wilson High School freshman, snuck out of her room sometime the night before the early morning fire and made her way to the Thurman Street home where Kenny lived with his father.
The fire, which authorities suspect was arson, quickly tore through the two-story rowhome. The incident has forged a strong connection between the two grieving mothers. Investigation into the fire is continuing.
Pace and Lowe, who had never met before, now call each other daily, sharing a grief that only they can understand.
“My heart goes out to her,” Lowe said of Pace.
Aside from the fire, both women have also suffered loss before.
In 2003, Pace’s son Jahad died suddenly from a heart condition. Kenny was 6 at the time and struggled to understand the loss.
A year later, Lowe gave birth to triplets. All three infants died in the first three months.
“We have just been going through so much,” Pace said Monday, as she cradled her infant son in her arms. “We have been here to support each other.”
For Pace, the birth of her son Mekhi has been bittersweet. Pace said since the death of his younger brother, Kenny had often talked about wanting another brother.
Although older now and no longer living with her, Kenny was elated when he found out he would again be an older brother, Pace said.
Pace gave birth a few weeks early on June 22. Kenny was at the hospital hours later and visited Pace and his brother frequently in the days after they came back from the hospital to Pace’s Lanning Square apartment.
“Kenny was just so happy,” Pace recalled. “He had all kinds of pictures of the baby.”
But just a week after Mekhi was born, Pace was dealing with Kenny’s death. She’s planning to have him buried next to his younger brother.
“Everything happened so soon,” Pace said. “I’m still in disbelief.
“I’m trying to accept it but I can’t. He was my other half and he’s gone.”
After finishing near the top of his freshman class, Kenny was already talking about college, Pace said. An athletic teen with a trademark mohawk, Kenny loved basketball and football.
When he began to experience some trouble about six months ago, Pace sent him to live with his father, Kenny Holmes Sr., on Thurman Street.
But nearly every day Kenny would bound back up her steps, whether it was for dinner or just to stop by.
“I’m still watching for him to come,” Pace said, her eyes going to the door as her voice trailed off.
Kenny’s father was in the Camden County Jail when the fire broke out, having been arrested hours earlier in connection with an alleged assault on a 22-year-old woman. Authorities have said investigators are looking into the circumstances of the elder Holmes’ arrest as a part of the investigation into the fatal fire.
Holmes has since been released from jail and disputed the charges filed against him in a brief interview Monday.
“I sacrificed my whole life so he wouldn’t go that route,” Holmes said of steering his son from the streets. “I’m grieving enough. That was my only child.”
In the home in Fairview, Lowe has placed pictures of Nyrah around the teen’s room.
Lowe said her daughter was an aspiring lawyer and model and loved to be
When she wasn’t listening to music or playing with her phone in her room, the teen, the second oldest of six siblings, ran track and helped around the house.
“She was a good kid,” Lowe said.
Lowe said she runs a tight house, attempting to shelter Nyrah and her siblings from a street life that has claimed many Camden youth.
Lowe said she provided cellphones and computers and did whatever she could to make staying at home attractive for her children.
“I made sure everything was here for them at home,” she said.
That’s one of the reasons she knows Nyrah hasn’t simply run away.
Instead, Nyrah snuck out of the home, a teenage rite that Lowe once did herself. Under her covers, she stuffed a wad of clothes and called a friend as she walked to the Thurman Street home to meet Kenny.
“She was a good kid, but she just did what teenagers do,” Lowe said.
Lowe tried to block the connection between her missing daughter and the fire for most of that Friday until the friend confirmed later in the day that Nyrah had gone to the house.
Lowe has remained strong so far, but knows sometime soon the detectives will arrive at her door.
“I know pretty soon I’m going to break,” she said.
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