A 7-year old boy has admitted to setting at least 5 arson fires in Alaska over the past 4-5 months, and the police have linked him to the crimes.
Causing more than $1,000 in damage, the boy reportedly lit fires in the restrooms of Harborview Elementary School and the Terry Miller Legislative Building, in addition to a downtown grass fire and two fires at a Fred Meyer store.
Fire Chief Richard Etheridge assured the public that the child won't be going to jail, but his case will be forwarded to probation officers at Johnson Youth Center.
"He has no idea how big the fires could have gotten," fire marshal Dan 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, whose name is not being released because of his age, told officers that he set the fires with a lighter he found, but did not reveal why. He was caught after surveillance footage at the Terry Miller building showed him entering and exiting the bathroom at the time the fire began-- and it didn't help that a grass fire started nearby soon after. The maintenance worker who put out the flames reportedly showed a still image of the boy to his daughter, who is roughly the same age, and she helped identify him.
"That [grass fire] we knew was kind of suspicious because that location outside, a fire doesn't just happen," Jager commented.
Juneau Empire is reporting that the pyromaniacal youth lives with his grandmother, who was surprised to learn that her grandson was starting fires in public areas.
"It definitely got her attention," Jager related, "and I think she's going to be a big help making sure that the boy understands what he's doing."