FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police have released body camera video of a fire at a motel in Fort Lauderdale that, they said, was set intentionally.
The footage shows a Fort Lauderdale Police officer trying to get people to safety at Bali Hai Motel, located along North Federal Highway, near 16th Street, Saturday afternoon.
The officer was one of several who arrived at the motel just before fire rescue crews responded.
“As the first arriving officers are trying to get people out of the building and away from the building, they go around the back of the building, where they are able to see large flames,” said FLPD detective Ali Adamson. “They relay that information to the fire department and then work together to determine if there’s still someone there.”
Crews were able to contain the flames to one room.
The blaze was initially deemed suspicious and then classified as arson.
“Being that the fire was intentionally set, it’s designed to get big and grow rapidly,” said Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Stephen Gollan. “Our fire station is located directly across the street from this incident, and the amount of fire that was encountered upon arrival was a clear indicator that it wasn’t your normal fire.”
First responders’ attention quickly turned to the man they found outside one of the first-floor rooms. He was carried to safety by a police officer.
The man was later identified as 44-year-old Martin Kendall.
“The utmost importance at that point is to bring that individual to safety, regardless of whether they committed a crime or whether they were a victim,” said Adamson. “It makes no difference. Preservation of life is always the most important thing.”
Kendall and the officer were treated for smoke inhalation, and Kendall was transported to Broward Health Medical Center for further treatment.
“Witnesses on scene reported hearing him say, ‘Let it burn,’ multiple times,” said Adamson.
Those accounts and the evidence shifted Kendall from victim to suspect.
No one else was injured, but the fire was a major blow to the family who owns the motel.
“This is a family-operated hotel; this is a family’s income,” said Gollan. “Due to the selfish acts of this one individual, this family has lost income on those rooms until such time that they can get them repaired.”
Gollan said the outcome could have been much more serious if the fire had been set in the middle of the night.
Kendall has since been transferred to the Broward County Jail. He faces one count of first-degree arson.
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