Boy, 10, faces arson charge
By JULIE CHURCH
© St. Petersburg Times,
TARPON SPRINGS -- A 10-year-old boy was charged Wednesday with first-degree arson, a felony, in connection with a Wednesday morning fire that destroyed his home and caused more than $65,000 in damages.
No one was injured in the fire, which started at 811 River View Lane about 10:30 a.m. The boy escaped safely, as did two dogs in the double-wide mobile home.
Neighbors told authorities they saw the boy running from the house with smoke coming from his nostrils and called 911.
Dan Spears, who lives across the street from the burned home, said the boy ran to his house shortly after the fire started and asked to borrow a fire extinguisher.
"By the time I could run a hose to the house, the windows shattered and started popping out," Spears said.
It only took a few minutes for the fire to engulf the mobile home, said Deputy Chief Kevin Bowman of Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue.
The fire then spread to an adjoining mobile home and a new boat that was in the carport of the neighboring home.
Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Al MacKenzie said the fire started when the boy placed a lit birthday candle in a toy car. The car rolled under a piece of furniture and ignited it.
In addition to the boy and his mother, Rena Daggett, 34, the home was occupied by Tom Walsh, 39, and Kevin Hill, 41, Bowman said.
Daggett was at work when the fire occurred and Hill was caring for the boy. Hill said he was working at another home in the neighborhood when the fire started.
"See these clothes I'm wearing, they're all I have left," said Walsh, who had lived in the home only a few months.
Walsh had purchased a new television set last week and both the men had an extensive NASCAR memorabilia collections. The contents of the home were not insured, the residents said.
The mobile home, valued by the Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office at $40,500, also was uninsured. The home was a total loss and damages to the boat and mobile home next door were estimated at $25,000.
The landlord, Pete Manson, said he had owned the mobile home for 30 years. He said he had tried to get insurance on the structure, which was actually two connected mobile homes, but because it was more than 30 years old and so close to the Anclote River he was unable to.
In addition to the arson charge, the boy was charged with grand theft Wednesday in connection with a $400 lawn mower that had been reported stolen. It was found when authorities arrived at the burning home.
MacKenzie said the boy was taken to the Pinellas County Juvenile Assessment Center where he was being held late Wednesday.
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