VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A group of underage individuals have been charged in the investigation of a house fire in Virginia Beach last Thursday — but not for arson.
Virginia Beach fire crews responded to a fire at a vacant home in the 2300 block of Rock Lake Loop around 11:40 p.m. Because the fire was ruled suspicious in nature, an investigation ensued and several juveniles were charged, Battalion Chief Amy Valdez said.
The investigation revealed earlier in the evening a group of juveniles entered the house, knowing it was unoccupied, and at some point lit a fire in a bathtub to keep warm. The subjects told police they went outside to look for more wood to put on the fire, and when they returned the fire had grown.
The group tried to put out the fire with snow, but the smoke activated smoke detectors and they began to panic. The water to the residence was shut off, and with no other way to extinguish the flames, the fire grew. The group fled, but was found later by Virginia Beach Police K9 officers, Valdez said.
The juveniles are not being charged with arson because there was no malicious intent to burn the house. They are being charged with destruction of property. Valdez said carelessly damaging property by fire is a class 4 misdemeanor, and the kids will be liable for the full amount of all expenses incurred in fighting the fire.
The home, which is up for sale, sustained moderate fire damage as well as smoke damage and heavy water damage.