COVINGTON -- Arson investigators with the Covington Fire Department have charged two teens in connection with an intentionally set blaze in a wooded area across the street from the Challenge Charter Academy on Geiger Street on Wednesday.
The young boys, ages 13 and 14, have been arrested and charged with engaging in certain activities relating to the use of fires and ignited objects and first-degree felony arson, according to Capt. Tony Smith, who said the first charge covers the setting of wildland fires.
The boys were turned over to Juvenile authorities for prosecution.
Smith said the fire was set during school hours while classes were out on the practice field for physical education. Another youngster reported to a coach that the woods were on fire.
"We were able to extinguish it fairly quickly," he said. "It really didn't get out ahead of us."
He said the fire was not accidental.
"They conjured up a plan where they took some combustible material from the school and took it out into the woods with the deliberate intention to set it on fire," Smith said.
The serious charges were made against the two after taking into consideration the proximity of a large neighborhood and the school itself.
"It's a very serious offense with the likelihood of the fire damaging somebody else's home or endangering somebody else's health," he said.
Newton County Fire Service Lt. Cydnie Taylor said since Jan. 1 there have been 20 confirmed juvenile fire-setters encountered by her office.
"A juvenile fire-setter is anyone under the age of 18. Currently our youngest child involved in fire-setting was 2 years old," she said. "These fires included fires set inside homes as well as grass fires ... and resulted in structural damage and damage to landscaping."
Taylor has an educational program she uses for both youngsters and their parents where youngsters setting fires has become a concern.
"Newton Fire is dedicated to prevention and intervention through education. Stopping fire-setting through education is a much more positive outcome than suffering an unbearable loss," she said.
Taylor said she would encourage anyone who knows of a juvenile fire-setter to report the incident to authorities.
"As a family member and a citizen, it is vital that you are forthcoming with any information that you may have about a youth fire-setter," she said. "Withholding information in an attempt to 'not get involved,' or to protect your family members is absolutely the worst thing you can do for them. When youth fire-setters are identified they can be educated on fire tools as well as the consequences of setting fires."
If you suspect juvenile firesetting or have the knowledge of fires that are being set by juveniles, please call Newton County Fire Service at 678-625-5025 so that the involved youth and guardian can attend our free Juvenile Fire setter Prevention Class here in Covington.