Two teens have been arrested on suspicion of felony arson for allegedly setting three Christmas trees afire in alleys behind homes near Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach Police Department said Wednesday night.
A boy, 14, and a girl, 15, were taken into custody after the third fire, police department spokeswoman Nancy Pratt said in an e-mail response to questions. Their names were not released because the law protects minors' identity. The suspects were booked into Long Beach City Jail on felony arson and later released to their parents' custody. Pratt said she did not know the time of the arrest or release but it was Tuesday night. Their bail amount, if any, was not disclosed. A court appearance date hasn't been scheduled, Pratt said.
According to a prepared press statement released a few minutes before 6 p.m. Wednesday, a Long Beach officer in the East Division was called about Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. to a fire burning in the alley of the 1500 block of Sherman Place. The Long Beach Fire Department was already on scene and the blaze was put out. A second officer responding to the call to assist the fire department discovered a second Christmas tree "engulfed in flames in the 2300 block of E. 15th Street," the release said, "and observed a male juvenile flee from the scene. The officer began setting a perimeter and then, using the fire extinguisher his vehicle was equipped with, was able to put out that fire."
In the same general area, not far from Pacific Coast Highway, firefighters were called to the 1500 block of Stanton Place and put out a third fire.
Witnesses offered details to officers that took them to a home in the 1600 block of Stanton Place, where the second officer reportedly recognized the 14-year-old boy as the one who fled the fire scene, and the Long Beach youth was arrested. The 15-year-old girl in the same home also was arrested. As arson investigation was begun, and the youths were taken to the police department's "Youth Services Section," jailed for suspicion of arson of property, and later released to their parents.
Arson can earn up to three years in state prison, lifetime registration as an arsonist, and one strike, the police department noted, although it wasn't mentioned whether that holds true for juveniles.