York City Police have arrested a man for arson in connection with an early Thursday fire on West Philadelphia and Belvidere streets.
York City Police have arrested a man for arson in connection with an early Thursday fire on West Philadelphia and Belvidere streets. (John A. Pavoncello)

York City patrol officers responding to a reported burglary in progress early Thursday morning were speaking with a man who smelled of gasoline and was holding a small room heater when smoke filled the block, police said.

Those patrol officers immediately arrested Keith Allen Hetrick Jr., 27, of 570 Company St., then started evacuating neighbors who live next to the boarded-up warehouse at 701-703 W. Philadelphia St., which was quickly being consumed by flames, according to police.

The three-alarm blaze left an estimated 11 people homeless, according to York City Fire Chief David Michaels, who said between 70 and 80 firefighters battled it.

Police are searching for a second arson suspect.

Arson charges:Hetrick was arraigned about 3:15 p.

Hetrick Jr.
Hetrick Jr.
m. Thursday at the county's central booking unit, where his bail was set at $250,000 a booking supervisor said. He is charged with arson and burglary and was set to be taken to prison after failing to post his bail, the supervisor said.

Police said officers were sent to the area of West Philadelphia Street and North Belvidere Avenue at 12:39 a.m. after a neighbor reported a burglary.

A witness told police two men were burglarizing the warehouse and were going back and forth from the warehouse to 118 N. Belvidere Ave., according to police. A rear window on the third floor of the warehouse had been broken, police said.

Officers approached the residents of 118 N. Belvidere, and that's when Hetrick walked up to the home as well, smelling of gas and holding a "tornado" heater, according to police.

Heavy smoke: Moments later, at 12:42 a.m., while officers were speaking with Hetrick, smoke began to pour from the warehouse, police said.

Officers called for firefighters, then started moving people away from the burning warehouse, including the four people they detained from 118 N. Belvidere, police said.

One of them, 25-year-old Daniel Tarbert, was arrested and removed from the scene for screaming and being disorderly, police said.

He is the brother of one of the residents of 118 N.

Crews were dispatched at 12:42 a.m. Thursday to a fire on West Philadelphia and Belvidere streets in York City, with multiple buildings involved. The fire
Crews were dispatched at 12:42 a.m. Thursday to a fire on West Philadelphia and Belvidere streets in York City, with multiple buildings involved. The fire quickly went to two and then three alarms. (Photos courtesy of York City Fire Dept.)
Belvidere Ave., and was heard yelling to his brother to shut up and not tell officers anything, according to police.

Tarbert was taken to the central booking unit as well, police said, and a woman detained from 118 N. Belvidere Ave. faces a charge of simple marijuana possession.

Second man sought: Police said they are still searching for Hetrick's alleged accomplice and are asking the public to call them with any information about the arson.

Fire Chief Michaels remained on scene Thursday while the warehouse was being torn down, as did a handful of firefighters and a state police fire marshal.

Boarded up: Michaels said the blaze has been ruled arson and started at 703 W. Philadelphia St., which is part of the warehouse. He said the warehouse at 701-703 was boarded up and that city officials previously affixed a red "X" to it, indicating if there was a blaze, firefighters shouldn't go inside, he said.

But even if had been safe to go into the warehouse, firefighters might have remained outside anyway, according to the chief.

"Just because of the amount of fire," he said. "There was a lot of fire upon (our) arrival."

The owner of the warehouse used it for storage, the chief said.

Displaced: Flames spread to 705 and 707 W. Philadelphia St., as well as to 118 N. Belvidere Ave., Michaels said. He said 705 was vacant.

The displaced residents lived in apartment units at 707 W. Philadelphia and 118 N. Belvidere, he said.

No one was hurt in the blaze, and no pets were reported killed, he said.

Michaels said 705 and 707 W. Philadelphia St. and 118 N. Belvidere Ave. sustained minor to moderate damage and should be salvageable.

He said it's unknown how the fire started or whether accelerants were used.

A damage estimate has not yet been determined, Michaels said.

Heat from the fire damaged siding of the Hi-Lo Laundromat, across the street from the warehouse, but customers were still able to do their laundry there on Thursday.

Floating embers: Firefighters concentrated their efforts on keeping the blaze from spreading, including dousing neighboring buildings, according to Michaels, who said large embers from the burning warehouse were being carried by the wind.

Neighbor Danielle Horseman lives across the street from the warehouse and awoke to chaos.

"I was told York City (Police) beat on our door," she said, but she lives on the second floor and didn't hear them. "They were beating on doors, trying to get everyone out."

After being awakened by the blaze, Horseman was up all night.

"But all five of my kids slept through it," she said.

Red Cross helps: The York-Adams chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting the displaced residents -- 10 adults and one child -- with food, clothing and shelter, and possibly other needs, according to a news release.

The Red Cross also provided canteen service to the more than 80 firefighters at the scene, the release states.

To help victims of fire, make donations to the Red Cross, online at www.redcross.org or mailed to the York-Adams chapter at 724 S. George St., York 17401. All donations help local victims.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts or identity of the second arson suspect is urged to call York City detectives at (717) 849-2219, or call the city's anonymous crime tip line, (717) 849-2204. Or anonymously text a tip to YORKTIPS at 847411.

-- Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.