7-year-old boy tied to Alaska arson fires

Apr 9, 2012, 12:53 AM

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A 7-year-old Juneau boy has admitted setting five arson fires over a little more than four months, according to fire officials in Alaska’s capital.

Juneau fire marshal Dan Jager tells the Juneau Empire (
http://bit.ly/Hr6wKe) that the boy caused about $1,000 in damages by setting fires in restrooms at Harborview Elementary School and the Terry Miller Legislative Building, plus a downtown grass fire and two fires at a Fred Meyer store.

The boy’s name was not released.

“He won’t be going to jail,” Fire Chief Richard Etheridge said, but the case will be forwarded to probation officers at the Johnson Youth Center.

The boy told fire officials during interviews Wednesday that he set the small fires with a lighter he found. There was no immediate indication of why, Jager said, but the incidents were dangerous.

“He has no idea how big the fires could have gotten,” Jager said. “He could have gotten hurt, and other people could have been hurt because some of those buildings were occupied. Being that age, I don’t think he understood the magnitude of what could have happened.”

The boy’s grandmother is his legal guardian. She was surprised to learn her grandson was playing with fire, Jager said.

“It definitely got her attention, and I think she’s going to be a big help making sure that the boy understands what he’s doing,” Jager said.

A surveillance camera at the legislative building recorded the boy entering and exiting the bathroom at the time of the fire. A maintenance worker extinguished the fire and did not call for assistance but contacted police and submitted video footage.

The worker also helped identify the boy, Jager said. The worker showed a picture of the boy to his daughter, who is about the same age, and she recognized him.

About a half hour after the fire at the legislative building, the grass fire broke out nearby, and the fire department responded with crews.

“That one we knew was kind of suspicious because that location outside, a fire doesn’t just happen,” Jager said.

The boy had previously confessed to setting fire to plastic storage totes in the outdoor center at Fred Meyer in December, as well as another fire in a Fred Meyer restroom in January.

The boy may have started other fires, Jager said. Police and fire officials are investigating a fire in a public restroom at City Hall in late January and early February.

___

Information from: Juneau Empire,
http://www.juneauempire.com

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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7-year-old boy tied to Alaska arson fires