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Investigator ties blaze to 5-year-old boy

Father allegedly recorded event for social media; neither to face charges

YOUNGSTOWN — A boy shown on surveillance video inside the Dollar Tree store, 3003 Mahoning Ave., Sept. 24 with his dad apparently set the fire that destroyed the store, Youngstown fire investigator Kurt Wright said.

The boy won’t be charged because he is only 5.

Mahoning County Juvenile Court does not file criminal charges against children that young, Wright said.

On the video, the man and boy could be seen entering the store together, then separating. Later, fire could be seen in the rear right corner of the store as the man and boy are leaving.

The boy proceeded toward the front of the store, but the man returned to the area of the fire and could be seen video-recording it for about six seconds before he walked toward the exit.

Dollar Tree plans to rebuild the store, Wright said. The fire caused about $300,000 in damage.

The father also has not been charged.

When asked why he video-recorded the fire, the father said it was “because he wanted his 30 seconds of fame on social media,” the fire investigator noted.

Wright had released the video to the public to get help in identifying the man. Lots of people recognized him and reported it to Wright.

The father denied that his son set the fire, but Wright said the surveillance video makes it clear that the boy was responsible. There were no other people in the area where the fire started, Wright said.

There is no video that shows the boy starting the fire, Wright said.

He had an expert check a wall outlet near the fire, and it was determined that the outlet was not faulty. After that, he was comfortable in identifying the boy as having set the fire, Wright said.

Wright advised the father of a fire-setter program offered by the fire department that could be provided to the boy, but it appears they are not willing to participate, he said.

Such a program could be helpful in identifying whether the boy needs counseling, Wright said.

“I’m sure it wasn’t the first time he played with a lighter,” Wright said.

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