Five-year-old Tiraz Fisher told firefighters he set the fire that killed his father last week in their East Side home, The Buffalo News has learned.
The developmentally delayed boy was rescued by a next-door neighbor who climbed up a ladder to a second-floor window and coaxed the child into his arms. Tiraz then informed firefighters, who arrived moments later, that he had been playing with a cigarette lighter that sparked the blaze at 18 Regina Place.
It is believed that the fire, which occurred just after 6 p.m. last Thursday, has been ruled accidental.
Firefighters had knocked down a side rear door and climbed the stairs to the second-floor apartment, where they found the 56-year-old father, Tony Miles, in a bathroom.
Taken on a stretcher to the side yard, Miles received first aid and it appeared he was going to survive, neighbors said, but he died a short time later in Erie County Medical Center.
Lewis Varner Jr., the neighbor who saved the boy, had said the child was wearing a diaper at the time. Before he could get the boy into his arms, Varner said, the child was reluctant to come to him and said, “My daddy, my daddy.” Only when Varner assured the boy he would come back for his father did the child move close enough to be rescued.
Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. declined to comment on the child’s statement. In New York State, children younger than 13 cannot be criminally charged.
Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III declined to comment specifically on the boy’s actions, but he spoke in general, explaining that for individuals to be criminally charged in the state they have to be at least 16, though there are rare exceptions.
“Under certain circumstances, 13- to 15-year-olds can be criminally prosecuted for extremely serious violent felonies. A 5-year-old cannot be criminally prosecuted,” Sedita said. “I think most people would agree that a 5-year-old usually doesn’t have the capacity to form a criminal intent.”
An official familiar with the case said it is hoped Family Court will provide counseling for the boy, whose mother was not home at the time of the fire.
“The child should not be vilified,” the official said. “He is developmentally challenged.”