Two former junior firefighters will not be fighting any more fires with the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company.
Harley Morrow, 16, and Jared McCabe, 17, pleaded guilty to second-degree arson in connection with a Jan. 10 fire in TruVale Acres. They were sentenced March 19 in Sussex County Family Court to one year of probation plus 50 hours of community service, plus restitution and court costs.
The boys, who were junior members of the Rehoboth fire company at the time of the incident, were ordered to have no more contact with the company or each other.
Morrow and McCabe, accompanied by their attorneys and parents, appeared before Judge Kenneth Millman to enter their pleas. Their attorneys, Thomas Pederson for Morrow and Vincent Vickers for McCabe, said their clients had no criminal history and there were no injuries as a result of the fire. While the plea specifies no more contact with the Rehoboth fire company, Vickers said it is unlikely the boys would be hired as firefighters anywhere else.
The boys admitted to the State Fire Marshal’s Office that they had started the fire out of boredom. Court documents show Morrow filled two Gatorade bottles with gasoline and took them to an abandoned manufactured home behind his house in TruVale Acres, off Munchy Branch Road in Rehoboth.
Police said Morrow poured the gas into the home, lit a paper towel on fire and dropped it inside. The boys then headed to Station 2 on Route 1, put on their fire gear and waited for the call.
In Delaware, second-degree arson means a person intentionally damages a building by starting a fire but had no reasonable grounds to believe the fire would endanger the life of another person or building.
By taking the plea and probation, Morrow and McCabe avoided serving time at Ferris School for Boys in Wilmington. If either of the boys commits a felony while on probation, he could be sent to jail for six months.
In addition to probation, Morrow and McCabe must undergo a mental health evaluation, complete the state’s juvenile firesetter intervention program and pay restitution, which has not yet been set. Vickers said it is likely the restitution would be $8,800 each; the fire was estimated to cause $10,000 in damages.
Millman told Morrow and McCabe they were fortunate there were no injuries. As firefighters, Millman said, they were aware of the risks that come with a fire.
Millman also told the them he hopes this is the last time they will ever be in a courtroom again.