Rehoboth Beach volunteer firefighters are stunned to learn that two junior firefighters, ages 16 and 17, have been charged with setting fire to a vacant home in Tru Vale Acres in the early morning hours of Jan 10.
The two boys, whose names have not been released, were arrested by deputies from the State Fire Marshal's Office. The fire started at 4:30 a.m., and caused an estimated $10,000 in damages, destroying the home. No injuries were reported.
Rehoboth Beach 911 dispatch received two calls on Jan. 10 reporting the fire. The first came in at 4:22 a.m. from a male who said he was near Munchy Branch Road and could see a lot of smoke and glow from an area neighborhood. The second call came in at 4:30 a.m. from a neighbor who reported the empty trailer was fully engulfed in flames.
As a policy, Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio said, the Delaware State Fire Marshal's Office does not release the names of juveniles. Warren Jones, public information officer for the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Co., said he could only say the boys had been suspended from the fire department.
"This is completely new to us," he said. "I'm not familiar with the legalities of what we can or can't release."
The boys, who live in Rehoboth Beach, were charged with second-degree arson, third-degree burglary and second-degree conspiracy - all felonies. The Fire Marshal's Office said the teens were committed to Stevenson House in default of $3,500 secured bond each.
Andrea Wojcik, spokeswoman for the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, said, upon advice from the Delaware Department of Justice, her office cannot confirm or deny whether the teens are out on bail because of confidentiality statutes.
Jason Miller, spokesmen for the Delaware Attorney General's Office, said individual law enforcement agencies maintain policies governing the release of information – in this case the Delaware State Fire Marshal.
He said the Department of Justice would intake the case in the coming days, but at this time does not know the identities of the two individuals arrested.
"This is the first time in 106 years that something like this has happened to the department," Jones said. "We are surprised and upset. We are saddened by the whole affair. We have a lot of good people who do a lot of good work, but this has cast a black eye on the department."
In a statement, Jones wrote, "The Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company is extremely saddened by these arrests, not just for the black mark this will leave on this great fire company, but for the people whose property was damaged and for the families of these young men who will have to endure the consequences.
"We would hope this will not deflect from the outstanding work done day in and day out by the many dedicated members of the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company who have served this community with pride for many years."
Jones said the two boys until now have been good members who seemed to enjoy what they were doing. They became junior members of the department at age 15; as junior members, their duties at fire scenes were restricted, but they would have been eligible to become firefighters at age 18.
Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect that the Fire Marshal's Office said the two boys were committed to Stevenson House.