CLEVELAND — Porchea Cook is a Cleveland mother who still can't fathom why three juveniles would attempt to set her Nathaniel Avenue home on fire, while she and eight children were inside the house.
The March 24 incident was captured on her neighbor's surveillance camera and showed the juveniles pouring what appears to be lighter fluid on a front corner of the house and then running form the scene.
Cook told News 5 she just feels fortunate she smelled the smoke, called the Cleveland Fire department, and was able to get all the children out of the house.
“I opened up the door and came down and it was on fire, but I didn’t think that somebody set the house on fire, I just thought that maybe it was like a wire," Cook said. “And you could see it burning, it’s in flames.”
“These kids, they really set the house on fire. I got kids that stay here and these kids need to go jail. My son could have died in the basement, or any of us, so something needs to happen with those kids because that’s ridiculous."
Cleveland Division of Fire Spokesman Mike Norman told News 5 the three juveniles involved have still not been caught, and said arson is unfortunately a serious problem citywide. Norman said the city had 158 deliberately set fire in 2021 and already have 40 arson or suspected arson cases so far this year.
“Arson is a serious crime, it’s a first degree felony if it’s aggravated arson, which is an intentionally set fire to an occupied structure," Norman said. “We had a dozen fire fatalities in the city last year, we‘ve already lost six people to fire this year, so it’s something we take very seriously.”
“These are kids are literally playing with fire and fires and get away, we just had a triple four fire a couple of weeks ago. So a small fire can grow into a very large serious situation. For aggravated arson it can be two to 10 years in prison and up to a $20,00 fine, so it’s a very serious penalty.”
Norman said arson is such a significant problem among teens the city has launched a Juvenile Fire Starters program.
“It identifies people who are at risk for setting these fires, children who are having this type of behavior," Norman said. "It’s a program that we work with so they can get some information, get some training, and realize the severity of their behavior."
“We lose people to fire every year in the City of Cleveland, so my message to them should be don’t do it, don’t play with fire.”
Anyone with information regarding this matter is asked to contact the Cleveland Division of Fire Investigation Unit at 216-664-6380. Anonymous information can be reported by calling CrimeStoppers at 216-25-CRIME.
Meanwhile, Cook is just hoping the juveniles will soon be arrested and learn that arson isn't a prank, it's serious a crime that can claim lives.
“They were laughing when they did it, it’s like oh, they were running and laughing, and like that’s not funny," Cook said.
“They poured lighter fluid on the house and lit the house, that’s not funny at all. With us being in the house, what if we were asleep and it was burning like that, we could have died from smoke inhalation or anything.”