It was a matter of opportunity.
Three teen-agers found a bay door in an out-of-business gas station and auto shop unlocked Friday, according to a Richmond County fire investigator. They went inside looking for tools to use for their bicycles. They found rags, clothes, paper and trash strewed everywhere.
Using a lighter, they set fire to Carter's Auto Salon, Lt. G.B. Hannan said. It took firefighters about 10 minutes to quench the flames, which charred the office area. No one was injured.
On Friday night, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office had three boys, ages 13, 14 and 15, in custody. The two younger boys will be charged with second-degree arson, the oldest with first-degree arson, Investigator Mike Lanham said.
The station sits at the corner of 10th Street and Laney-Walker Boulevard across the street from the Richmond County Health Department building. Neighbors said Carter's, which has three old gas pumps outside, had been closed for months.
Lt. Hannan said witnesses saw the teens in the building before the fire. A fire truck en route to another fire informed dispatch, Battalion Chief Ron Shirey said.
The 13- and 14-year-olds were found on James Brown Boulevard. One tried to run, but was caught nearby. The 15-year-old was picked up later at the residence of one of his mother's friends, Lt. Hannan said.
The oldest teen faces the more serious charge because he set the main fire, Lt. Hannan said.
Juvenile authorities released all three to their parents' custody Friday night.
Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.