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Arson Fire At Motel Kills One, Injures 22

August 14, 1996

DALLAS (AP) _ An arson fire raced through a freeway budget motel early Tuesday, killing a child and sending dozens of people leaping from second-story windows to escape the flames.

Firefighters found 10-year-old Christina Knighten as they battled the blaze. She died later of smoke inhalation at Methodist Medical Center.

Twenty-two of the 63 people who fled the building were treated for injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken legs suffered while fleeing the fire at the Budget Inn, which erupted at 12:20 a.m.

``We had to catch four people jumping out windows, including two babies and two women and another child,″ witness Trent Young said.

The fire was deliberately set on the motel’s second floor, and caused an estimated $550,000 in damage. Deputy Fire Chief Tom Oney said.

And it wasn’t the first blaze at the hotel that night. Someone, either a motel employee or guest, had extinguished two small fires earlier in the night without calling authorities, fire department spokeswoman Sherrie Wilson said.

``Then there was a third fire and the man went to put it out and it got out of hand,″ Ms. Wilson said.

Motel workers reportedly chased off vagrants shortly before the fire, and residents said they saw two or three men running through a hall as the fire broke out.

``All I know is, I was trying to put the fire out and they were trying to chase down the guys who did it,″ said witness Apache Gollab.

Management had barred several men from the property a few days earlier because they had been making ``too much trouble, too much noise and a lot of traffic,″ motel manager Sunny Patel said.

Patel said a maid saw one of them return to the motel on the night of the fire.

Officials also were investigating witness reports that the motel did not meet city requirements for sprinklers, smoke alarms and emergency exits.

Christen Redic, 21, said she was half-asleep with her toddler when she heard a ``dinging noise″ but thought nothing of it.

``A couple seconds later, I started smelling smoke,″ said Ms. Redic, who is eight months pregnant. ``I grabbed my baby and headed out. By the time I did, the whole hallway was covered with smoke.″

She felt her way to the stairs and climbed down. Ms. Redic was taken with other victims to a city recreation center, where Red Cross workers provided food and temporary shelter.

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