01/20/08 — Juvenile charged in fire at Wal-Mart

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Juvenile charged in fire at Wal-Mart

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 20, 2008 12:31 PM

Goldsboro police say a 14-year-old who set fire to a Wal-Mart lingerie rack as a diversion to steal is in custody.

The North Spence Avenue retailer also reported far more damage than originally thought -- a total of $300,000 in property and building damage, Sgt. Chad Calloway said.

The store originally gave police an estimate of $20,000 in total losses from the Jan. 15 fire that was reportedly set around 11 p.m., authorities said.

The juvenile suspect is charged with felonious burning of personal property, a Class H felony punishable by a minimum five months imprisonment for adult defendants, according to Calloway and state law.

Police also seek "at least one more suspect" apparently involved in the fire, which sent two people to Wayne Memorial Hospital, fire officials said.

City Fire Chief Alvin Ward said authorities initially feared those two people -- Wal-Mart employees who manned fire extinguishers -- were suffering from smoke inhalation.

But Ward said doctors at the hospital determined the pair had actually breathed in dust produced by the fire extinguishers. Ward added that the fire extinguishers had been used properly by the employees.

The $280,000 increase in reported damages was a result of the sprinkler system, which helped to put out the fire but caused water damage, Calloway said.

Although some of the damages may have been caused by the sprinkler system, anyone found guilty of starting the fire would be responsible for everything that was destroyed, the police sergeant said.

The fire chief stressed that although sprinkler systems can also cause damage, the overhead shower "probably saved the building."

Calloway said that there was "slight" structural damage to the North Spence Avenue Wal-Mart.

"There is enough that we can articulate structural damage," Calloway said.

Calloway said police are still investigating whether the juvenile suspect or others successfully stole from the store during the fire.