Tuesday, March 8, 2011 | 6:04 p.m.
Map of Valley Hospital Medical Center
620 Shadow Lane, Las Vegas
Las Vegas Fire and Rescue investigators arrested and charged a homeless woman with arson and attempted murder after she allegedly started a fire in a restroom in the Valley Hospital Emergency Room early Tuesday morning.
Kathy Priest-Ritner, 43, was charged with one count of arson in the first degree and six counts of attempted murder. She is currently being held in the Clark County Detention Center without bail.
Fire officials said patients being treated in the emergency room for other medical emergencies were examined for smoke inhalation after the fire and the incident caused the emergency room to close for several hours.
Ritner was taken to the emergency room earlier in the morning by ambulance for a medical complaint. She was examined and released. Officials said she was seen playing with a cigarette lighter while in the waiting room.
She then went into the restroom of the emergency room, officials said, and allegedly set fire to a plastic waste container and then left. The melting plastic created a thick black smoke that was seen coming from the restroom, officials said.
When security personnel and medical staff entered the restroom to extinguish the fire, thick black smoke spread into the rest of the emergency room, officials said.
Firefighters responded to the hospital at 7 a.m. to confirm the fire was out and to help clear the smoke out of the emergency room. Damage from the fire was estimated at $5,000.
Investigators determined Ritner had left the hospital and was in the emergency department at University Medical Center, where she was taken into custody by fire investigators.
The incident remains under investigation by Las Vegas Fire & Rescue investigators.