Three 13-year-olds charged with American Flats fire |

Three 13-year-olds charged with American Flats fire

Karl Horeis, Appeal staff writer
The fire engine that was burned in the Silver Springs fire is scattered along this dirt road leading to the American Flats in Virginia City.

Three 13-year-old Lyon County boys have been arrested in connection with a 30-acre American Ravine fire which destroyed a Central Lyon County fire truck and threatened Silver City.

The boys, whose names were not released because they are juveniles, were booked Thursday on felony arson charges. No court dates have been set.

“We’re confident that we have the three individuals who are responsible for the fire,” said Storey County Sheriff Pat Whitten.

The boys were playing with a cigarette lighter — igniting and putting out fires — when one got out of control.

“I have been advised that there were at least eight fires,” said Storey County District Attorney Harold Swafford.

Lyon County Fire Department Battalion Chief Mark Darragh said the potential for disaster was serious.

“Playing with fire is not a game. Playing with fire is life and death and it will no longer be tolerated in Northern Nevada.”

He said the two-man crew who abandoned the truck was “a matter of moments” from being killed. The crew and others involved are undergoing counseling.

“We had a very near miss with potential loss of life,” Darragh said.

Meanwhile, the teens are being held in the Murphy Bernardini Regional Juvenile Justice Center in Carson City.

“Right now the boys are being evaluated to determine whether or not they are a menace and to see if they are a flight risk,” said Swafford. “If we can, we will release them to their parents. Otherwise they will be held indefinitely.”

Five Nevada agencies were involved in fighting the fire and finding its cause: Storey County Fire and Sheriff’s departments, Lyon County Fire and Sheriff’s departments and the Nevada Division of Forestry.

“Our message is, if you play around and start a fire we will group together and hold you accountable,” said Whitten. “I’d like to call (the fire’s cause) ‘kid pranks,’ but when you destroy 30 acres and threaten a community it goes way beyond that.”

Whitten said a combination of eyewitnesses, solid investigation and “good parenting” led to the arrests. After the boys were identified and questioned, their parents brought them to deputies on Thursday morning.

The fire, which started July 26 and burned for two days, blackened parts of Storey and Lyon counties. Each boy is charged with one count of third-degree arson in each county.

“The penalty will be up to the judge,” said Whitten. “It will depend on their prior (histories).”

He said at least one boy has been previously charged with arson in Lyon County, but none has any history in Storey County. Two of the boys are twins who were 12 years old at the time of the blaze. They turned 13 on July 30.

The cost of fighting the fire is estimated at $300,000. Most of that — about $280,000 –Eis the estimated cost of the brush truck and its gear lost in the fire.

Its ruined hulk rests on the side of road surrounded by fluttering pink and yellow ribbon near Silver City. Steel radial tires have been reduced to rusty bands of wire and aluminum turned to liquid, its parts scattered into a rocky ravine.

“This is a crime against the citizens,” said Darragh. “That fire engine was owned by everyone.”

He said a national review board will examine the incident and produce a report.

“It will be read by every fire department in the country,” he said.