Associated Press – March 28, 1987
Mary Helen Gillespie, Associated Press
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) – A guest who escaped a fire that injured 16 people at a motel and go-go lounge complex has been charged with setting the blaze that forced other patrons to jump from windows and roofs to escape, officials said.
Wade Ray King, 30, of Pennsauken was arrested Friday evening at another motel nine miles away and charged with a single count of aggravated arson, said Camden County Prosecutor Samuel Asbell said.
King was registered in Room 214 of the Oasis Motel, where a three-alarm blaze broke out at 1:22 a.m. Friday, forcing the evacuation of 30 guests.
The fire was brought under control about an hour later, but not before 16 people were injured, including a pregnant woman and a firefighter. Hospitals on Friday reported one person in critical condition and one in serious condition.
The blaze started in the bed area of Room 214 and spread quickly because of the wood paneling on the walls, said Fire Inspector Paul Escher.
Authorities on Friday combed the burned-out buildings, located along a seedy stretch of transient motels, liquor stores and go-go bars featuring nude women dancers about a mile from the Philadelphia city line.
”It’s always been a questionable spot,” Asbell said. ”There have been a number of complaints and disturbances, but nothing like this.”
Smoke detectors and fire alarms at the complex operated without any problems, Escher said.
But firefighters arrived at the scene to find people jumping from windows in the two-story motel and its five-story Harem Lounge, authorities said.
”A lot of people had to jump,” said motel guest Meta Barrow, 20, adding that a friend lowered her out their motel room window with a bed sheet as flames spread through the room.
”He lowered me down and told me not to jump. I was hysterical and screaming. There were flames everywhere,” Ms. Barrow said. ”When the fireman came with the ladder, I just jumped on him.”