SoHo deadly fire: A day later, investigators still trying to determine why it was set

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SOHO, Manhattan (PIX11) — Police say that Wei Chu Wu is not only a murderous arsonist, they say the man who set fire to his apartment building also tried to block their investigation, and tried to prevent emergency workers from getting his neighbors to safety.  Now Wu is behind bars, charged with a list of crimes related to the fatal fire he’s accused of setting.

Detectives from the Fifth Precinct, in Chinatown, walked Wu to a police car Friday just after noon.  They were taking him to his first appearance before a judge on charges of murder, arson, attempted assault of a law enforcement or fire official and resisting arrest.

It all stems from a fire that ignited around 6:40 Thursday night in Wu’s apartment, on the second floor of 41 Spring Street.

“The… super and him were fighting, but I don’t know what they were fighting about,” said Wai Kong.  She lives in the building next door, and saw the smoke as well as Wu and his building supervisor arguing.

“I called 911 right away,” Kong said.  However the argument she had described between Wu and his super was by no means the only fighting Wu was reported to have been involved in.

Witnesses had reported him fighting with his girlfriend before the fire broke out.  The couple has a 13 year old son, and witnesses had told investigators that Wu had made comments to her indicating that he was jealous.  After he had argued with her, according to police, Wu lit up their second floor apartment.

“That’s scary,” said George Brown, a neighbor.  His apartment is separated by just a wall from the building that ended up burning in a five alarm blaze.  “When you start messing with domestic stuff, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives,” Brown told PIX11 News, “crazy things happen.”

After firefighters arrived on the scene, they came across human remains that were so badly burned that they could not identify the person.  However, many longtime residents of the street told PIX11 News that a building resident had spent hours during the fire looking fo his wife, to no avail.

“I see him crying,” said Gina Cecala, who for 81 years has lived three doors down from the building that burned.  “‘Did you find your wife?’ [I asked him].  He said, ‘She’s dead.’  I didn’t sleep all night just thinking about it,” Cecala said.

The FDNY has not yet released the name of the person whose remains were found.  More than 24 hours after the fire broke out, crime scene and fire investigators remain on the scene.