Yakima Firefighters Work to Stop Young Arsonists - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Yakima Firefighters Work to Stop Young Arsonists

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It's generally surprising to hear about a fire that was intentionally set. Even more surprising when the suspect is barely a teenager. It's generally surprising to hear about a fire that was intentionally set. Even more surprising when the suspect is barely a teenager.

YAKIMA, WA - It's generally surprising to hear about a fire that was intentionally set. Even more surprising when the suspect is barely a teenager.

Maybe there were warning signs and this could have been prevented.

Yakima firefighters said a 10-year-old kid faces first degree arson. He intentionally set fire to a grassy patch outside a dentist office near 12th Ave and Spruce Street. The fire damaged part of the outside of the building but fortunately didn't spread to the inside.

"Fire is a beast," said Yakima Firefighter Jay Elmo. "They don't have any understanding of it. We train to understand it."

Elmo said he's worked with dozens of kids under the Yakima Valley Juvenile Fire Stoppers Program. From kids caught playing with matches to more serious acts of arson.

"I'm trying to decipher whether it's just curiosity or whether it's something that's eating them up at home," said Elmo. "It's a parent, a school, bully. Sometimes there's deeper issues and a lot of times there have been."

According to the United States Fire Administration, more than 50 percent of people arrested for arson are under 18-years-old, and 7 percent of those kids are under the age of ten.

"Trying to prevent them from becoming adult arsonists, and there's been some cases where you could see them going down that path," said Elmo.

Elmo said he's met with about six kids so far this year.

Firefighters said it's important for the whole community including parents, teachers or neighbors to be aware of and report early warning signs of children playing with or setting fires. Firefighters said experimenting with lighters and matches is not just a phase kids will outgrow.