Discouraged 10-year-old salesman burns potential customers

The small fires that broke out last Sunday at two homes in west Chico were apparently started by a bored 10-year-old, reported Chico Fire Department spokeswoman Marie Fickert. The boy, who had been spotted selling trinkets and pens door-to-door in the neighborhood around the time the fires started, was found after a woman reported that he made strange remarks to her while she was extinguishing the smaller of the two blazes.

“While she was stomping on the fire, this young male juvenile approached her carrying this box of items he was selling and asked her if she would like to buy anything,” Fickert said. “He was making a comment on what he felt potentially could have started the fire. I can’t disclose exactly what was said, just that it was an odd comment for a young child to make. … She told him she wasn’t interested in buying anything—she was busy putting out a fire.”

The two fires, one at a house on the 500 block of West Third Street, the other at a sorority house a block away on West Fourth, broke out about 1 p.m. Sunday. Both were extinguished by passersby before the Fire Department was contacted.

At the Alpha Phi sorority house, three men who happened to be driving by spotted the flames from the street. The men reportedly pulled over and attempted to quench the fire with the house’s hose, but it would not reach. Luckily, there were some 5-gallon, cooler-size bottles of water near the house that they opened and poured on the flames. A fire crew responded within minutes of a cell-phone caller’s report, but the fire was already out when they arrived. One woman was home at the time but was not injured.

The house sustained about $1,300 in damage, including some blistered paint, a tattered awning and a burned trash can and three-wheeled “bed racer” the women had constructed. The other fire, which was started on the front porch of a private residence, caused almost no damage.

Fickert said she didn’t know why the boy was out selling items by himself.

“He’d also been observed in the neighborhood the previous Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday, selling items from a cardboard box,” she said. “He had mostly trinkets, pens and things.”

The fires were apparently started not out of spite but out of boredom. The boy, whose identity was not disclosed, was cited for arson and released to his parents.