13-year-old starts fire with firecrackers

July 2, 2009 6:05:44 PM PDT
It is not even the 4th of July yet and already Richmond saw a dangerous reminder of the risk of fireworks Thursday.

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A child playing with fireworks set a fire which destroyed his home and badly damaged two others.

Firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire shortly after noon. It took about 40 minutes to bring the fire under control.

The fire destroyed one unit of the duplex and part of the adjoining one.

"Well, I was sleeping and then all I heard was my cousin come in and she told that the house was on fire," Carlos Delasantos, who lives in the other unit, said.

The fire also spread to the back of the house next door which was in the process of being remodeled.

Fire officials say a 13-year-old boy who lives in the duplex set the fire.

"He was playing with fireworks, took firecrackers and threw them in the garage and that started the fire," Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Merlin Turner said.

Richmond police say that earlier in the day, an officer saw the child playing with bottle rockets outside his home.

"They took them from him and as soon as they left he started up again," Turner said.

Police say the officer was told by the child's 20-year-old cousin there were no more bottle rockets in the house. The cousin has been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Juvenile authorities will decide later whether to file charges against the 13-year-old.

Richmond has installed 47 sensors across the city which detect noise from gunfire, as well as fireworks. Police say in the last 24 hours, the sensors have picked up 355 separate incidents of fireworks being set off in neighborhoods around Richmond.

Police have labeled the incident a negligent fire and not an arson-motivated fire because apparently the child did not intend to set his home on fire.

Richmond bans all fireworks. The state penalty for conviction of buying or selling illegal fireworks is harsh -- up to a $50,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

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