VANCOUVER, Wash. -- The searing heat and flames are gone.
So is the close call for firefighters when a wall collapsed Crestline Elementary School.
But the fire’s devastation and danger in February of last year is still burned into Gary Butenschoen’s memory.
“It could have jumped to houses,” says Butenschoen, “There could have been houses that burned down. That’s pretty close to the houses on this side over here.”
Butenschoen hopes the 17-year-old facing a juvenile court summons on a second degree arson charge for starting the fire does some serious time in custody for the serious damage done that disrupted so many lives.
“Somebody that intentionally sets a fire needs to do the maximum time,” says Butenschoen.
We went to the 17-year-old suspect’s home in Vancouver. The father answered the door, but didn’t want to talk on-camera.
Off-camera, through tears, the teen’s father told me his son is a good kid who made one bad mistake.
The teenager’s attorney released a brief statement.
“We’re not in a position to comment on this unfortunate matter at this time,” said defense attorney Jack L. Green. “Other than to say our client and his parents have been cooperating with law enforcement from the beginning.”
The cost for the fire, cleanup, investigation and reconstruction is already somewhere around $8 million.
Gary Butenschoen believes any penalty the teenage suspect eventually faces has to discourage other teens from taking risks that lead to this.
Butenschoen says, “It’s hard on the parents to see the anguish that that kid will have. It just messed everybody up.”
The 17-year-old suspect is expected to appear before a juvenile court judge May 21, facing a charge of second degree arson.
A second teenage boy linked to the fire by investigators has not been charged in the case.