2 children hospitalized after East Naples apartment fire

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EAST NAPLES, Fla. – Two children rushed to the hospital after their home went up in flames Thursday morning. One of those children remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition.

The State Fire Marshal determined the fire started around 4 a.m. while someone was cooking at the apartment off Bayshore Drive.

Joseph Perez-Bard, 28, was home with the children at the time. Deputies say he was watching the children for his sister. He arrived at the apartment around 2 a.m. after he had been out drinking with a friend. Two hours later the apartment was up in flames.

“Our crews made immediate entry into the home,” said Greater Naples Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt. “They had active fire immediately inside the door of the home and they did hear children crying in the rear of the building.”

Firefighters and deputies rescued a 22-month-old, a 4-year-old, and Perez-Bard from the apartment.

Both children were rushed to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

“I want to be respectful to the parents and the family, but I can tell you, I personally visited with both children and the parents,” said Schuldt. “It’s a very traumatic experience for them and their concern right now is addressing their youngest child that is undergoing treatment. We’re gonna hope for the best and that everyone is going to be fine.”

The State Fire Marshal determined the stove was on and there was a cooking pan on it.

A few hours after the fire, deputies said Perez-Bard showed back up on scene and gave deputies a false name. They later found his Pennsylvania driver’s license in the apartment and confirmed his identity with his sister.

Perez-Bard was arrested for lying to deputies about his identity. He was also being investigated for breaking into the neighbor’s apartment but they decided not to press charges. WINK News contacted the State Fire Marshal to find out if Perez-Bard would face criminal charges for the fire but they have not gotten back to us yet.

As for the family, Schuldt says they need to find a new place to live. For now they are being assisted by the Red Cross.

“I’m telling you the firefighters of Greater Naples with the assistance of CCSO, EMS was on scene, they saved two lives today without question,” said Schuldt.

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