Ohio 8-year-old Admits Setting Damaging Blazes

April 9, 2013
Neighbors describe the boy as an unsupervised mischief maker.

April 09--HAMILTON -- Neighbors described an 8-year-old boy who allegedly confessed to setting a fire that destroyed two garages and damaged five other structures Sunday evening as an unsupervised mischief maker.

The boy, who police did not name because he is a juvenile, reportedly sparked a fire with a lighter in an alley in the 1200 block of Campbell Avenue at around 6:30 p.m., according to Hamilton Arson Inspector Tom Angst. After a neighbor quickly doused those flames, the boy allegedly then set fire to some wood and oil between two garages and "took off running," Angst said.

Questioned by authorities a short while later, the boy confessed to his actions, Angst said. Damages to seven structures resulted in about $38,000 worth of losses, he said.

The blaze melted power lines and blew out transformers, knocking out power to area residents.

Amy Rapp, who lives on Campbell Avenue, said she was having dinner with family when her cousin burst in the door and told them the garage was on fire. Rapp, like other neighbors, said she is aware of the boy's lack of supervision.

"You would see him by himself at all hours of the night and basically have no one looking out for him," she said. "He came to our house one time at 10 o'clock (p.m.) last summer by himself and asked to swim in the pool."

Neighbors said the boy, who is in the custody of his grandfather, also had previously set fire to a trash can in the alleyway between Campbell Avenue and Dayton Street.

Gene Wullenweber, of Dayton Street, said in the past year or two the boy has stolen items from neighbors' yards and dumped garbage into the alleyway that neighbors strive to keep clean.

"He's been in mischief all around the neighborhood," Wullenweber said.

Another neighborhood resident who wished to remain anonymous said the boy lurks around the streets with several other boys ages six through nine "just to see what they can get into." Following the trash-dumping incident, she reprimanded the group and told them they should clean it up.

To which, she said, the boy responded: "We don't have to."

DeaEtta Miles said she attempted to speak with the boy's grandfather on a previous occasion about his behavior, but the grandfather snapped back at her, "You don't know what this kid's been through."

"I was like, 'So?,'" said Miles, who called the boy "a big-time troublemaker."

No one answered the door at the boy's home Monday.

Angst said the boy will be required to participate in Hamilton Fire Department's Juvenile Fire Setters Program, which looks at not only the act itself, but the underlying reason why it occurred.

"Anywhere from typically from six to eight (years old), they're mimicking somebody," Angst said. "From eight to 12, they're typically being curious, and anything older than that, usually in teenagers, usually you find (it involves) some kind of type of revenge."

In some cases, children use arson as a means to draw attention to something affecting their lives, such as abuse, he said.

"Obviously he needs some assistance and some counseling over what happened, and hopefully with the junior fire setters, he will be able to get that," Rapp said.

Angst said he will follow the recommendation of the Butler County Prosecutor's Office regarding any potential charges, but won't send them someone it won't prosecute.

"Ultimately, our goal is to get this kid some help," Angst said. "If we can do that without going through the court system, I'm OK with that."

Copyright 2013 - Hamilton JournalNews, Ohio

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