Family says 12-year-old boy started house fire after being suspended from school

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RICHMOND, Va. -- A 12-year-old boy may be responsible for a Richmond house fire that displaced two adults and seven children.

Richmond fire crews responded to the home in the 500 block of Northside Avenue around 5 p.m. Monday.  Family members said the boy set his closet on fire because he was upset over being suspended from school.

Rasheem Whitaker, a family friend, said he was inside the home when the boy’s mother called for help.  Whitaker said he tried to smother the flames with salt before helping the family outside to safety.  Two women and seven children, ages one to 15 live in the home.

Lashandis Burrus, one of the residents, said the house is gutted from fire, smoke and water damage.

The Red Cross is helping the family by providing clothes, food and comfort items.  On Monday night, the children were also given teddy bears as they waited outside their home.

Burrus said they’ll stay with family while they rebuild or move to another home.