A fire that erupted early Thursday morning inside a Brooklyn couple’s home is being investigated as suspicious, according to FDNY sources.
Anna and Dorilo Gonzalez, originally from the Dominican Republic, were rescued by firefighters after they were trapped inside their home on Loring Avenue in East New York’s Pink Houses at about 4:48 a.m. on Thursday.
Neither was seriously hurt, though Anna Gonzalez was taken to Brookdale Hospital Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation. She was later released.
According to FDNY sources, investigators are now looking for the victims’ next-door neighbor as a potential suspect in the arson. Sources say he had been making threats against the couple and had gone on “racist rants” against Hispanic people during the past month.
Fire officials, however, say marshals have not yet classified it as an arson investigation.
Law enforcement sources said the suspect allegedly dumped gasoline on the Gonzalezs’ front door and then set it on fire. Where the suspect went afterward, however, is unknown; some witnesses claimed he fled the scene inside a cab, while others claimed he was hiding out in his residence.
Through an interpreter, Dorilo Gonzalez said that he and his wife woke up to the fire at the door and tried to put it out, but they could not. They were screaming out of the windows for help as two housing police officers were passing by and immediately called for the fire department, he said.
Residents were sent fleeing from their apartments during the smoky blaze, but because they had no way to get out, the Gonzalezs were trapped in the back bedroom.
“You go to their room far left, no burn marks. That’s how they survived. They locked themselves up there, screaming out the window for help. They took the air conditioner out of window for more ventilation,” their son Edwin Gonzalez said of his parents. “Who would do such a thing? They better get this guy.”
Firefighters were able to get to the couple before they could suffer more serious injuries.
FDNY officials said the blaze was brought under control in about 40 minutes. When it was all over, the kitchen and living room had suffered heavy damage.
NYCHA was said to be preparing another apartment for the couple to live while the apartment undergoes repairs. The Gonzalezes worked to recover as much property as they could.
“He tried to put it out, but he couldn’t,” said Jalissa Ventura, a cousin of the couple. She and many other family members stuffed black trash bags of property to move to another apartment. Much of the foyer was burnt and parts of the living room and hallway were charred.
“She did call 911 and then they called out to the police who then summoned fire,” Ventura said. “There was chaos – I don’t know how people do this — to have the heart to burn someone alive and you know that is what his main goal was.”
Dorilo Gonzalez said he previously went to the Housing Police and NYCHA to complain about the threats and intimidation by his neighbor, but got no results.
Police say there have been no arrests.
NYCHA officials did not have any immediate comment before deadline.