A 14-year-old Kennewick boy has been arrested after telling police he intentionally set a rash of fires in his neighborhood.
The boy told a school resource officer at Southridge High School on Tuesday that he wanted to talk about fires he started, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
He later admitted to an arson investigator that he set at least four fires, including one in his own house and one at a friend’s house, the affidavit said.
He was arrested Tuesday and placed in detention at the Juvenile Justice Center. Court documents show the boy has no previous criminal history.
The Herald is not naming the boy because he is a juvenile and has not been formally charged. He is on a 72-hour hold at the justice center while prosecutors review his case. They have until noon Friday to file charges.
The boy — who court documents said is a freshman at Southridge with good attendance and average grades — made his first appearance Wednesday in juvenile court. A court commissioner ruled he is a threat to the community and set bail at $50,000.
If the boy posts bail, he will be released to his parents, who told the court they will supervise him around the clock. Both were present during the hearing. “We just would like to express our commitment to making sure (our son) receives the proper mental health (help) and counseling,” his father said in court. Two fires caused significant damage to homes on South Palouse Place and South Palouse Street in Kennewick, officials said. Another fire almost burned a vacant house on West 40th Place before an off-duty detective helped put it out with a garden hose. It’s unclear if a fourth fire, started at the suspect’s home, caused any damage.
Investigators will look at unsolved arson cases in Kennewick dating back at least a year to see if there is any connection to the boy, said Kennewick Fire Marshal Mark Yaden. Officials are investigating eight arsons in the city since June, including three fires the boy admitted setting.
Authorities did not say how the fires were started.
“We can’t release that because there could be additional suspects,” Yaden said. “We still have the fires under investigation.”
The latest fire the boy is accused of setting burned a house on Oct. 18 at 3908 S. Palouse Place. A friend lived in the house, according to the affidavit.
The house suffered heavy fire and smoke damage, Yaden said. The family of four that lives there wasn’t home at the time and no injuries were reported.
The fire was set in the living room of the single-story house, Yaden said. The family’s hamster and several fish were killed in the blaze. “Initially we estimate there could be roughly between $50,000 to $100,00 worth of damage once the (homeowners) get everything assessed inside of the house,” Yaden said. “That number usually increases.”
On Sept. 15, brush in the backyard of a vacant residence at 1500 W. 40th Place threatened the house and several fences, officials said. Police say the boy set the fire around 5:30 p.m and the off-duty detective kept it from spreading. A day later, the boy allegedly set fire to a house under construction at 4457 S. Palouse St., police said. The fire caused pipes inside the house to burst, flooding it. The water ran for hours and caused significant damage.
Police responded in December to a report of a fire at the suspect’s house on the 1500 block of W. 40th Place, court documents said. A probation officer told the court Wednesday that the boy was contacted by police following that fire but there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him.