Two junior firefighters say they set ablaze a manufactured home because they were bored.
Harley Morrow, 16, and Jared McCabe, 17, were arrested by deputies from the State Fire Marshal's Office after a fire broke out at 4:30 a.m. Jan. 10 in Tru Vale Acres, near Rehoboth Beach, causing an estimated $10,000 in damages and destroying a vacant home.
After setting the fire, the boys went to Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company Station 2, where police reports say video footage shows them enter the fire hall, suit up and wait. Three minutes later, firefighters were dispatched to the burning residence in nearby Tru Vale Acres.
Officer Scott Walker of the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office reported the deputy fire marshal who investigated determined the blaze had been set intentionally.
Walker said he interviewed Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company Assistant Chief Leonard Marsch. “He stated two of the members of the fire department were acting in a suspicious manner,” Walker wrote.
Walker said he also reviewed video footage at the fire hall that showed both boys enter about three minutes before the call dispatching the company to the fire. “Both defendants put on their turnout gear and appeared to wait for the fire to be dispatched,” he wrote.
Walker said he interviewed the boys, and both confessed; each boy said it was the other's idea to set the fire, but both told investigators Harley set the blaze.
Walker said Harley filled two Gatorade bottles with gasoline, and the boys walked through the woods behind Harley’s home on Munchy Branch Road into Tru Vale Acres.
After they arrived at the vacant manufactured home, Harley poured the gasoline into the dwelling through a broken window, Walker said in court documents. “He then ignited the paper towel and dropped it inside. A fire quickly broke out, and they ran back to Defendant No. 2's [Harley's] residence,” he wrote.
Both boys were committed to Stevenson House Detention Center later that day. Harley was released on $3,500 bail Jan. 11. Jared's bond information was not available.
Justice of the Peace Rochelle Knapp ordered both boys to have no contact with the fire department, which Knapp refers to throughout the order as the alleged victim.
According to a 2011 study by the National Institute of Mental Health, the brain is not fully developed until a person is in their 20s.
The parts of the brain that control emotional and impulsive behavior have not yet matured in teens, the report says. “Such a changing balance might provide clues to a youthful appetite for novelty, and a tendency to act on impulse -without regard for risk,” the study says.
Editor’s note: Cape Gazette policy calls for withholding the names of juveniles charged with minor crimes because most minor crimes present no threat to the community, and neither the juvenile nor the community is served by the public attention of a news story. However, when a juvenile commits a crime classified under Delaware law as a felony, the incident - because of its severity - becomes an issue of community concern. It is our policy to publish the names of juveniles charged with felonies including arson, which Delaware law classifies as a violent crime.