Police: Arson fire at Family Dollar could have been ‘disastrous’

Police: Arson fire at Family Dollar could have been ‘disastrous’

While an alleged arson fire caused $200,000 in damages to a Middletown business Sunday afternoon, police officials are thankful no one was injured.

“It could have been disastrous,” said Lt. Jimmy Cunningham from the Middletown Division of Police.

The fire inside Family Dollar, 3238 Roosevelt Blvd., was reported at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Middletown fire department arrived and extinguished the fire and cleared the large amount of smoke from the business, police said. There were about 10 people inside the business at the time of the fire, but no one was injured, police said.

The store’s surveillance video showed a 10-year-old boy who used a lighter from the store to start the fire at the end of an aisle, police said. He started the fire by lighting a box of charcoal and lighter fluid and there were propane tanks in the area, police said.

After lighting the fire, the boy got on his bike and calmly left the store, Cunningham said.

The boy was charged with aggravated arson and placed with his mother, Cunningham said. He will appear in Butler County Juvenile Court on May 16.

The suspect was identified from the surveillance video by a School Resource Officer who works in the Middletown district.

The Journal-News requested a copy of the surveillance video, but was told by police that it would not be released because it was part of an open investigation.

Police interviewed the boy’s father, but he was uncooperative, Cunningham said. The boy’s mother helped police locate him at 3:15 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of Greenview and Bonita drives.

As Cunningham approached the boy, he started crying and hugged Cunningham.

“He’s a little boy and I feel sorry for him,” Cunningham said. “But what he did was potentially deadly. Not only for himself, but for the other 10 people inside.”

Members of the Arson Task Force talked to the boy about the dangers associated with fire, and Cunningham said the boy hopefully will receive counseling.

The boy and his 8-year-old sister rode their bikes to Family Dollar, police said. The girl was at the front of the store at the time of the fire, Cunningham said.

The store, located in the Barbara Park Plaza, remained closed Monday as employees continued cleaning up after the fire. Cunningham said the sprinklers helped reduce the damage done by the fire “significantly,” but most of the merchandise was ruined by water or smoke damage.

Randy Guiler, vice president of investor relations for the company, wrote in an email: “We are thankful that no customers or associates were injured as a result of this incident. We are cooperating fully with local authorities on their investigation.”

So far this year, there have been six arson fires — three cars, one church, one residence and one business — and all have been solved by the Arson Task Force, Cunningham said. He said the national average for arson convictions is 5 percent to 8 percent and Middletown had a success rate of 50 percent last year.

Cunningham called members of the Arson Task Force, comprised of fire and police officials, “a cohesive unit” and they have “a great relationship.”

Weather and Traffic