Miami-Dade Police have made an arrest, and concluded that arson was the cause for a fire that recently consumed a halfway house in northwest Miami-Dade, officials said Friday.
Investigators determined that the fire on Oct. 16 was set by Elton Smith after an argument with facility caretaker Juan Antonio Gonzalez the previous day. Witnesses living in the home said an irate Smith threatened to burn the house after the argument.
The fire started at 2 a.m., and while nine people living in the home escaped, Smith was taken to the Mercy Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation and Scott Henderson, who was trapped in the house during the fire, was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center with second degree burns on 17 percent of his body.
Henderson is listed in stable condition.
According to the arrest report, police were dispatched to the home on the 5000 block of Northwest 169th Street frequently of because Smith, who was known to harass, steal from and assault other members in the home. The other members, like Smith, were ordered by the court to the halfway house program.
After examining the scene, responding police and fire rescue found a trail of a flammable substance leading from the hallway to Gonzalez’s room. Witnesses in the home saw lighter fluid in Smith’s room, and saw him pouring flammable glue onto the floor moments before the fire, the police said.
Firefighters were able to contain the fire, but damages to the home, according to police, are estimated at $100,000. The median sale price for a house in the Miami Gardens and Carol City area is $165,000, according to Trulia, an online real-estate company.