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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Boy arrested for Valley arsons

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 1, 2014

A 16-year-old boy suspected of igniting a string of arson fires across Spokane Valley is in custody. Authorities credit an outpouring of tips from residents and the dedication of a multi-agency arson task force with cracking the case, which left many South Valley neighborhoods unsettled as fires erupted in fields, woods and unoccupied new homes around them over the past few weeks. “The urgency, for us, was to protect the public,” said Assistant Chief Greg Godfrey with Fire District 8, where most of the fires occurred. “A serial arsonist is rare.” Investigators have said at least 23 fires were started in late September south of Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake. The boy, who was taken into custody Tuesday night, faces charges in at least seven of those fires, including two that burned houses under construction and five brush fires. The largest was the wildfire near the Saltese Flats that threatened eight homes and was fought by crews from several agencies on Sept. 18. No one was hurt in the fires. The boy, a student at Central Valley High School, lives in the area where the fires were started and is said to be cooperating with authorities. Investigators say he acknowledged lighting the fires and believe that he acted alone. Spokane Valley Fire Marshal Kevin Miller said the investigation is continuing. The boy had been interviewed several times in the week leading up to the Tuesday night arrest. Authorities spent the evening verifying the boy’s statements before announcing the arrest this morning. The teen was booked into Spokane County’s juvenile detention facility. Court records show that the boy used a lighter and road flares to ignite pages of his school notebook and study flashcards from a chemistry class. A passerby who discovered one of the fires before it spread out of control began trying to douse the flames by hand and spotted the burning notebook and kicked it onto the road and used sand and dirt to extinguish the flames, preserving a major piece of evidence that gave investigators one of their first big clues. During one of the interviews with investigators, the boy told them he was new to the area, did not have any friends, and “hated it here.” The family recently moved to Spokane Valley from out of state. Among the tips that helped authorities was the description of a white, four-door sedan that was seen in the area of some of the fires. It matched the description of the car often driven by the teen. The arson task force included representatives from Fire District 8, Spokane Valley Fire, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
This story is developing and will be updated.
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