Woman arrested in Boulders apartment fire
Investigators look through four apartments after they were destroyed in a fire on Monday night. Yvette J. Kimber, 45, is being held on one charge of aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, and two charges of manslaughter, a second-degree felony. Photo taken on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at the Boulders Apartments in Provo. ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald .
PROVO -- Provo police arrested a woman early Tuesday morning for allegedly igniting a fire that killed two people and seriously injured one other.
Yvette J. Kimber, 45, is being held on one charge of aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, and two charges of manslaughter, a second-degree felony. According to a police affidavit, Kimber was upset with her boyfriend and threatened to overdose on medication. She later dropped a cigar-type cigarette in her apartment, eventually saw flames, and ran to a neighboring apartment to call authorities, according to the affidavit. When police asked Kimber if she lit the fire intentionally, the affidavit states she said didn't know.
Firefighters responded to the blaze at The Boulders apartment complex around 9:05 p.m. Monday and accounted for all but two residents. After extinguishing the flames crews searched the building and discovered the bodies of Karen Murray in apartment No. 158 and Catherine Crane in apartment No. 159. Deputy Fire Chief Gary Jolley said Tuesday afternoon that authorities were still determining the women's ages, but described them both as middle aged. He said autopsies would reveal an exact cause of death, but said asphyxiation from smoke was not unlikely. He said the victims also had some visible burns.
A third woman jumped from a second-story window as she tried to escape the flames. She initially was transported to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in critical condition, then flown to the University of Utah's burn center. Jolley said the woman was 51 years old, but he did not know her name on Tuesday. He said he had heard she may have suffered a fractured pelvis.
Court records reveal that Kimber has a criminal record stretching back to at least 2003. In 2006 she participated in mental health court as part of a plea in abeyance agreement over multiple shoplifting charges.
The affidavit for Kimber's arrest Monday states that about a minute before she called to report the fire police had responded to the Boulders Apartments. They reportedly had been told that Kimber was suicidal, but when they arrived they discovered that the building was engulfed in flames.
Kimber was later located near the front entrance to the apartment's parking lot. She allegedly told police that she fell asleep in her apartment with a cigarette. Kimber later said that after an argument with her boyfriend she called a friend claiming she was going to overdose on medication, according to the affidavit. She then allegedly admitted to taking pills, drinking beer and smoking marijuana, before dropping a cigarette on the love seat. She reportedly told police she then noticed the love seat getting hot, jumped up and saw the fire.
Jolley said investigators planned to conduct more interviews with Kimber to figure out how and why she started the fire. He explained that the physical investigation at the apartment complex could conclude as early as Wednesday, but the case would take much longer.
Authorities say that up to eight apartments eventually were affected by the fire, which cut a charred crevice through the entire width of the building. Four Provo fire stations and two Orem stations responded to the blaze.
Witnesses reported seeing residents break their windows as they struggled to escape the burning building. Patrick Bates and Brianne Thomas -- who live in a neighboring but unaffected building at The Boulders -- said they pulled up sometime before 9 p.m. and saw the fire. Bates said he and some people near the fire ran to help a woman who appeared to be trapped on the second floor.
"It was like a movie watching the flame behind that lady," Bates said. "There was a good amount of time where I was yelling, 'You've got to jump.' And I was just screaming for people to help me."
The woman Bates and others tried to help was the same individual authorities later transported to the hospital. She was identified by neighbors as Janette. On Monday night her friends and roommates were in shock about what had happened. Jessica Sager said she and Janette were in the apartment when the blaze began. Sager said she was asleep when Janette woke her up with news of the fire. They tried to escape through the door, but eventually resorted to the second-story windows when a wall of flame began bearing down on them.
Sager's boyfriend, Michael Norris, wasn't home at the time of the fire, but said it was devastating.
"I'm grateful she and Janette got out alive," Norris said of Sager's escape. "It's like this dream just exploded. Everything is just a blur. It's so surreal, and it just hits like a ton of bricks. Everything we ever owned was in that apartment. Basically our lives have been destroyed."
Norris also was worried Monday night about the fate of two cats he and Sager had raised.
The Red Cross responded to the scene by 10 p.m. to provide assistance to those displaced by the fire. Jolley said evacuated residents spent the night in the Provo Teen Center on the corner of 500 West and Freedom Boulevard. By Tuesday night all residents in neighboring buildings were allowed to return home, and Jolley anticipated that some residents in the burned building would be able to return soon as well if their apartments were not among those affected. He said The Boulders would likely get hotel rooms and work out long-term solutions for people who cannot return home.
There was a fire at the complex in January 2009 that killed one person. The building involved in that fire is located directly across a parking lot from the apartments that burned Monday night.
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