Man arrested after trying to block fire trucks from responding to blaze
Court records said Reading Fire Department First Deputy Chief Larry Moyer Jr. had to physically remove the man so the truck could safely proceed to the fire
By Steven Henshawl
READING, Pa. — The Reading fire marshal's office is investigating a predawn fire Sunday in an apartment building that displaced two families and also led to the arrest of a man.
Nine people, including four children who reside on the second-floor apartment at 1126 Buttonwood St., were fortunate to escape unharmed because they were sleeping when the alarm came in about 3:40 a.m. Sunday, Fire Marshal Jeremy Searfoss said Monday.
Most of the fire and damage was to the first-floor apartment where one adult and one child reside, he said.
No injuries were reported, but both families were displaced because of damage to utilities, he said.
The American Red Cross Tri-County Chapter said it is assisting the residents.
Crews were slowed in their arrival by a man who stood in the middle of the street as the driver of a fire truck tried to turn into the block from North 11th Street.
According to court records, Erick Zayas-Hernandez, 31, refused to move even when the driver sounded the air horn twice. First Deputy Chief Larry B. Moyer Jr. had to get out of the truck and physically remove the man so the truck could safely proceed to the fire, according to court records.
While firefighters were fighting the flames, police said, Zayas-Hernandez repeatedly tried to run into the house but got only to the steps before being repelled by firefighters.
A police officer who arrived to provide fire scene security arrested Zayas-Hernandez on charges of recklessly endangering another person and obstructing emergency services.
Firefighters put out the fire within 15 minutes.
Zayas-Hernandez, no permanent residence, was committed to Berks County Prison in lieu of $10,000 bail following arraignment before District Judge Kyley L. Scott in Reading Central Court.
Zayas-Hernandez has a lengthy criminal history and is under supervision of the county adult probation office for burglary and assault charges in a May incident at the same address as the fire.
Authorities said he broke into an apartment and threatened a woman with a steak knife. The victim told police that Zayas-Hernandez came through a window in her bedroom, refused to let her leave, grabbed her, pinned her to the floor and threatened to kill her.
The woman suffered a cut on an arm but managed to break free and escape through a bedroom window and call 9-1-1. Police took him into custody in the bedroom.
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