Man rescued from house fire arrested on attempted murder, arson charges

Officials term fire as 'malicious'

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando police officers arrested a man who they saved from a "malicious" house fire on Thursday, charging him with attempted murder and arson.

Robert "Bobby" Merritt, 49, was arrested after being rescued and revived from the fire at a home at 2409 Betty Street, which is near Coy and Bumby.

Merritt and his 6-year-old daughter were left in critical condition. No other details on his arrest or the cause of the fire were immediately available.

According to Orlando fire officials, police were called to the home for a well-being check at approximately 5:30 a.m.

"When they flashed their lights on the house, they saw some smoke coming from the house," said Orlando police spokeswoman Michelle Guido. "As they got closer, they saw there was a young girl in the front window the house."

The officers broke the window and pulled the girl, who was covered in soot, from the home, Guido said.  

She did not have any visible injuries, but was taken to Florida Hospital South.  She was later transported to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in critical condition, officials said.

The man, later identified as Merritt, was found unconscious and not breathing in a bedroom, and officers pulled him from the home and performed CPR until he started breathing, Orlando fire officials said. 

"He's paralyzed from the waist down, so he couldn't walk," neighbor Estella Floyd said. 

Merritt was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center in critical condition.

"I hope he comes out OK," Floyd said.

Arson investigators spent the afternoon sifting through the soot-filled home for clues as to what may have started the fire.

By 4 p.m., investigators announced they were investigating the fire as malicious and arson, and an hour later, Orlando police announced they had arrested Merritt for setting the fire.

"The Orlando police officers acted quickly, put themselves in harm by entering a house on fire and, without hesitation, saved the lives of the child and her father," the Orlando Fire Department said in a statement.

The officers also rescued a dog inside the house, and the pet was placed in the custody of Animal Control.?

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