By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Nov. 1 — A local juvenile has been charged with arson in relation to the Oct. 13 fire reported at Dollar Tree in the East End Shopping Center. The blaze and its impact, which spread to Valley Health’s adjacent fitness center and Uncle D’s Pool and Spas, have been estimated to cause $1 million in damages.
A judge in Page County’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court heard the case for the Class 3 felony charge against the juvenile yesterday, but has not yet rendered a disposition.
The arson charge revolves around an emergency call to the chain discount store about 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13.
“Officers were dispatched to the Dollar Tree for a report of a Structure Fire. Upon arrival Officer J. Seal observed heavy smoke coming from the vents and roof toward the rear of the store. Officer Seal attempted to make entry through the rear door, but it was locked,” reads an incident report from Police Chief C.S. “Bow” Cook presented to the Luray Council last week.
“Fire and rescue arrived and cut their way into the building,” the report continues. “Officer Seal observed the smoke getting thicker and could hear the fire roaring inside.”
Everyone was evacuated from the building, and no injuries were reported. However, the loss of merchandise alone is estimated at $315,000. The entire rear of the Dollar Tree store will need reconstruction, the roof over Uncle D’s needs major repair, as well as extensive damage at the PMH Fitness Center. Estimated damages also included lost revenue due to the temporary closure of the three businesses.
In addition, about 25 fireman responded to the scene with five pieces of apparatus. Luray Fire Department was assisted by Page County EMS, Luray Police Department, and Page County Sheriff’s Office. Firefighters were on scene for approximately five-and-a-half hours.
The incident report by Chief Cook not only details hard evidence against the juvenile, but it also reveals a few disturbing facts about the actions of the accused after igniting the costly fire.
“Video evidence showed the fire was started on purpose by a juvenile,” the Chief’s report stated. “The juvenile waved at the patrons and staff as he was exiting the store after starting the fire. The juvenile approached an Officer and had a conversation about being a fireman when he grows up.”
Chief Cook reported last week that “the juvenile was picked up on a Detention Order the next day (Oct. 14) and transported to the Northwest Juvenile Detention Center where he is being held without bond.”
Cook added on Tuesday that the juvenile is still being held at the Winchester facility awaiting the judge’s decision. Police would not comment on the juvenile’s sex, age, race or background, but did state that the juvenile lived in Page County.