Boy, 9, Charged In Dollar General Store Arson

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
- photo by Brent McDonald (See video on Channel 9)

Chattanooga fire investigators have charged a nine-year-old boy with aggravated arson and reckless endangerment in connection with the fire he admitted starting at the Dollar General Store in Hixson on late Tuesday afternoon.

Lt. Anthony Moore with the Fire Investigation Division said the youth was taken to the Juvenile Detention Center on Tuesday night and was expected to go before a Juvenile Court judge this morning to face the charges.

The boy told firefighters that he was mad at his mother so he walked to the rear of the store and set rolls of bathroom tissue on fire. He said he used matches that were on display not far from where the bathroom tissue display was located. The boy said he watched the fire grow for a while, and then made his way out the front entrance.

The boy's mother turned her son over to the fire investigators when her son told her that he started the fire.

The fire destroyed the store at Hixson Pike and Highway 153.

Store Manager Tammy Laney was the first adult to discover the fire when she started smelling smoke. When she discovered the fire, she initially tried to put the flames out herself, but was unsuccessful. It was also becoming difficult for her to breathe. She then got everyone out of the store and called 911.

The Chattanooga Fire Department received the call at 5:45 p.m. and responded with six fire companies to 4852 Hixson Pike. At first, it appeared that the firefighters would be able to get the fire under control fairly quickly, but the fire got into the attic and was difficult to locate in the thick, black smoke. The firefighters made an interior attack and tried to use thermal imaging cameras to locate the fire. However, other firefighters noticed that the roof was beginning to sag, so the order was given to evacuate the building for the safety of the firefighters.

As the fire continued to spread, Battalion Chief Bob Dixon called for a second alarm response to bring in additional firefighters and equipment. The firefighters set up four aerials with master streams, along with several firefighters who used handheld hoselines, and they eventually got the blaze under control.

No injuries were reported.

The firefighters did manage to keep the fire from destroying an adjacent building, which was previously a grocery store but is now vacant.

The Dollar General Store and its contents will be considered a total loss. The store employed seven people.

Chattanooga Police, Hamilton County EMS and Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue also provided assistance on the scene.


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