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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fresno: School Arson Investigation Nabs Child Suspect

 Boy, 10, among suspects in arson at Farmdale Elementary School
 Merced, Calif. (KFSN) -- Merced police arrested three boys Tuesday afternoon. They're accused of intentionally setting a fire at an elementary school, one of the young suspects is a student at the campus

The fire broke out inside a classroom at Farmdale Elementary School on Winder and La Mesa. The three suspects authorities were looking for are younger than they anticipated. Two of them are 14, and one of them, a 10-year-old boy and a current student at the school.

Lt. Tom Trindad said, "They went inside and threw some graffiti up on the walls using paint that was in the classroom and of course they set a fire inside of it."

Firefighters were alerted to the flames when a burglary alarm went off around 1:30 in the morning, followed by a fire alarm.

Merced Fire Chief Mike Mclaughlin said, "Our crews initiated fire attack and it had been burning for a moderate amount of time."

The flames destroyed books and desks, water damaged nearby rooms and the incident forced the library, science and computer lab to close for the day.

Farmdale Elementary School Principal Kathy Moser said, "We had one class that had to be moved and a few other intervention classes, but business is going on as normal, the kids are flexible and the teachers have been very very cooperative."

Police say a security camera captured the three suspects break into the classroom, ransack it and light a small area on fire.

"Fortunately there was nobody on the campus which would have made it more serious, but still the property damage of course and then you have to think of first responders that go out there," said Lt. Tom Trindad. "There are firefighters that put their life on the line to stop the spread of that fire and of course we have a big concern for them."

Officials are also concerned for the students who may learn one of their classmates is accused of committing the crime at their campus.

Lt. Tom Trindad added, "Kids want to feel safe at school and somebody damages or breaks into a school that makes them feel less safe."

Officials are taking this very seriously. Firefighters say the fire caused $30 thousand in damages, but could've been much worse if it weren't for the sprinkler system.

The two 14-year-olds were booked into juvenile hall, and the 10-year-old was released to his parents. The school says a restoration company will work through spring break to clean up the campus.

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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