HELENA — An 8-year-old and two 10-year-olds were all charged with negligent arson Monday after allegedly setting a pile of garbage on fire in the 1600 block of Warehouse Avenue.
Helena Police Capt. Curt Stinson said that even though no structures were damaged, there was a significant threat to a garage near where the incident occurred.
“They had a fire that was close to getting out of control,” he said. “The concern was the structure, being close to the structure.”
He defined negligent arson as a situation in which, “a person purposely or knowing starts a fire or causes an explosion … and thereby negligently places property of another in danger of destruction.”
Stinson said the decision to charge the children was unusual, but noted they were referred to Youth Court and likely will not receive punishment for the incident.
“At the end of the day, nothing’s going to happen with them,” he said. “You really can’t punish an 8-year-old legally for the most part; that determination is up to Youth Court.”
The children and their parents will likely have to meet with a probation officer to discuss the incident, Stinson said, but will not serve any time in a juvenile detention center.
“They wrote a ticket, gave it to Mom and said, ‘Take it to probation,’” he said.