Kids Playing with Matches Torch N.C. House

A firefighter was hurt searching the vacant house for victims.


June 03--HIGH POINT -- When an abandoned house caught fire on Memorial Day, one firefighter was sent to the hospital with injuries. No electricity had been on in the house for several years, officials said. This led investigators to believe there was suspicious activity going on inside the house.

Fire investigators determined Friday that two children, ages 8 and 11, set the house on fire. They had been in the house playing with matches, according to a press release sent by the High Point Fire Department.

The house had been set on fire before, the last time in 2009, Tim Wright, deputy chief at the High Point Fire Department, said.

The two bedroom, single level house was built in 1955, according to house records, and was last sold in 2007. No one has lived in the house since.

One of the children told someone about the fire and that person told fire investigators, Mike Levins, assistant chief and fire marshal, said, which eventually lead to other child involved. The children had matches and had gone inside the house to strike them. But when a nearby sofa caught fire, they got scared and ran, he said.

"They understood that what they did was wrong," Levins said. A police report was filed but will be held until the children complete the Juvenile Firesetters Program, a program that the department offers to children who have a curiosity about fires and educates them on the dangers of fire while providing fire-safety training. The program has been running for nearly 10 years and teaches between 180-200 kids annually, Levins said.

"People who own houses (that are abandoned), even though they've boarded them up, they still need to check it periodically or at least once a month to make sure no one re-enters the house, pulling up wires or something else that causes damage to the house," Levins said.

A firefighter who went inside to search the home for possible burn victims fell into a hole that appeared to be a hollow space where a furnace was kept underneath the floorboards, Wright said. His injuries were not life threatening.

emeeks@hpe.com -- 888-3601

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