Published: Saturday, December 24, 2016 @ 6:57 PM
Three juveniles will undergo a diversion program in connection to the Dollar Tree fire on Wayne Avenue on Christmas Eve.
UPDATE @ 5:08 p.m. (Jan. 24)
The suspects in this case, an 11-year-old boy and two 10-year-old boys, appeared in front of Juvenile Judge Nick Kuntz earlier this month, said Montgomery County Juvenile Court Administrator Jim Cole.
The males were referred to the court diversion program, called the "10 and Under Program." Cole said this is for very young offenders and if they successfully complete the program they will not have a juvenile record following them.
The program can last from three months to a year, depending on how well they do in program.
If they fail to comply with the "10 and Under Program," including a fire-starter program, then they appear back in front of the judge.
All three males remain on electronic home monitoring but are still attending school.
UPDATE @ 11:13 a.m. (Dec. 27)
Jim Cole, Montgomery County juvenile court administrator, said three males, age 10, 10 and 11, are facing second-degree felony counts of aggravated arson in connection to a Dollar Tree fire.
The three males, due to their young ages, were released on 24-hour electronic home monitor, Cole said. They were arrested Dec. 25 and released home that day.
They will face a hearing Jan. 18 in front of a magistrate.
All the suspects are from Dayton and have no prior history with juvenile court.
A Dayton police report lists a fourth juvenile suspect, but that person is not in juvenile court. We’re working to find out more.
We’re working to find out the juveniles’ ages and genders.
No injuries were reported when the fire broke out with customers and employees inside.
Flames rapidly spread, but witnesses said the workers were the last to get out after making sure all shoppers were safe.
“This fire is suspicious in nature,” said District Chief James Rose of the Dayton Fire Department. “We have shoppers, or patrons, that reported some suspicious activity.”
Rose declined to elaborate further or confirm reports that youths were seen running from the store just before the fire broke out.
“We have solid leads on who may have started the fire,” he said.
A woman standing in line to buy wrapping paper said she was startled when she heard someone yell, “what’s on fire?” She walked over to the corner and saw “flames going up and up.
“I screamed to the worker: ‘it’s on fire, it’s on fire, the store’s on fire!’”
The flames quickly reached upper shelves in the back, she said, and moved toward the middle of the store as employees yelled for everyone to get out.
“As soon as the door opened, the flames got bigger,” she said.
The employees were last to leave, and made sure all customers got out safely, she said.
Dayton firefighters quickly arrived, but the fire already was well involved and spreading rapidly, Rose said.
He had to pull firefighters out of the burning building to fight the flames from the outside due to the danger.
“What we’re confronted with now is the roof is compromised so it’s just going to be a long and drawn out process,” he said.
Water will have to be moved into the building to put out hot spots, Rose added. Crews will likely have to remain on scene for hours.
The fire caused more than an estimated $250,000 in damages to the store and its contents.