15-year old boy arrested, may have set 18 fires

Police in north Idaho arrest boy after arson spree

From The Olympian:

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – A 15-year-old boy suspected of setting 18 fires in the last month has been arrested in northern Idaho.

Coeur d’Alene police say the boy is being investigated in connection with 15 recent wildland fires and then three more fires near Skyway Elementary School. The fires were quickly extinguished.

Coeur d’Alene Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Lauper said it was critical to make an arrest due to an increased chance of fires this weekend because of fireworks, low humidity, high temperatures and no expected rain.

“We’re going to be busy enough with other emergencies,” Lauper told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “Those extra fires were putting a drain on our resources.”

After eight fires were set in the last week, officials asked for the public’s help, which Lauper said was a difficult decision because it could have made it harder to catch whoever was setting the fires.

“We had to make a calculated risk analysis,” Lauper said. “Once we go public, we have to have the resources to put into that investigation because it could either shut him down or make him accelerate his activities.”

Coeur d’Alene police Sgt. Bill Tilson said tips from area resident’s led to the boy’s arrest late Thursday.

“The patrol division received some tips and we followed up on those tips,” he said. “Thanks go to the citizens of the city.”

Lauper said the boy, who is being held in a detention facility and whose name has not been released, has told officials details about the fires. He said the boy and his parents are cooperating with officials.

“He told us things that were absolutely consistent and confidential to the investigation,” Lauper said.



Firefighters control a fire in the Shawnee State Forest in Ohio. Photo: Wayne Allen, Portsmouth Daily Times

The Columbus-Dispatch has a story about how the Ohio Fire Academy and fire departments in the state attempt to prevent firefighter-arson. They point out that there are no national statistics about the number of firefighters charged with arson, but the U.S. Fire Administration in a 2003 report published an FBI-created profile of the typical firefighter-arsonist:

  • Are white males, ages 17-25.
  • Had one or both parents missing from home during childhood or, if the family was intact, had an emotional atmosphere that was mixed and unstable.
  • Have a cold, distant, hostile or aggressive relationship with natural father.
  • Have either a poor marriage or live at home with their parents.
  • Lack stable interpersonal relationships.
  • Didn’t adjust well to other jobs.
  • Are interested in fire service for excitement, not for the sake of public service.
  • Might have experienced alcoholism, childhood hyperactivity, homosexuality, depression, borderline personality disorder or suicidal tendencies.
  • Might have an average to higher intelligence, but poor academic performance.

For more information, see the article we wrote on September 2, 2008.