13-year-old boy charged with arson in Chambersburg duplex fire

Boy is in custody of the Franklin County (Pa.) Juvenile Probation Department

February 15, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — A 13-year-old boy was charged Tuesday with arson in a two-alarm duplex fire that officials said almost killed a girl.

The boy was placed in the custody of the Franklin County (Pa.) Juvenile Probation Department on charges including arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Jeff Sarver said the child used lighter fluid Monday to ignite the back porch of 270 Lincoln Way West.

A 14-year-old girl who suffered smoke inhalation was recovering at a Baltimore hospital, Sarver said.

If not for the actions of two firefighters, the outcome could have been very different for the girl and the boy's mother, Sarver said.

"Those two are definitely alive because of Steve Himes and Norm Reitz," he said.

Reitz, of the Chambersburg Fire Department, yelled for the girl a couple of times, found her in a second-floor bedroom and initially couldn't find the stairs, Sarver said. He broke a window and then found the stairs as his air pack was running out, Sarver said.

"He couldn't see his hand in front of his face," Sarver said.

Himes is with the Franklin Fire Co.

The fire marshal said he and Chambersburg Deputy Emergency Services Chief William Dubbs found a lighter and empty container of accelerant on the porch, near which were found several combustible items, including a couch and bags of clothing. Chambersburg police, who filed the charges, interviewed the boy twice.

"He didn't really give a motive," Sarver said.

Two smoke alarms tied into the electrical system had been disconnected and the batteries were removed from another, according to Sarver.

"There weren't any working smoke detectors in the house," he said.

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