Police questioning 6 teens about 3-alarm apartment fire, car fires

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Police says teens might be responsible for a trio of fires sparked in Central Phoenix Monday morning. By Catherine Holland Police says teens might be responsible for a trio of fires sparked in Central Phoenix Monday morning. By Catherine Holland
Police says teens might be responsible for a trio of fires sparked in Central Phoenix Monday morning. By Catherine Holland Police says teens might be responsible for a trio of fires sparked in Central Phoenix Monday morning. By Catherine Holland
Police are talking to a 12-year-old girl in connection with a three-alarm fire that ripped through a Phoenix apartment complex early Monday morning. By Catherine Holland Police are talking to a 12-year-old girl in connection with a three-alarm fire that ripped through a Phoenix apartment complex early Monday morning. By Catherine Holland
Police are talking to a 12-year-old girl in connection with a three-alarm fire that ripped through a Phoenix apartment complex early Monday morning. By Catherine Holland Police are talking to a 12-year-old girl in connection with a three-alarm fire that ripped through a Phoenix apartment complex early Monday morning. By Catherine Holland
Police are talking to a 12-year-old girl in connection with a three-alarm fire that ripped through a Phoenix apartment complex early Monday morning. By Catherine Holland Police are talking to a 12-year-old girl in connection with a three-alarm fire that ripped through a Phoenix apartment complex early Monday morning. By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Police detained six kids ranging in age from 10 to 16 in connection with a three-alarm arson fire that ripped through a Phoenix apartment complex early Monday morning.

It started before 5 a.m. at the Pinewood Village Apartments near 15th and Highland avenues, which is south of Camelback Road in Central Phoenix. The fire was pumping thick black smoke into the air. That smoke was visible for miles.

More than 100 firefighters were called out to handle the massive blaze.

The two-story structure that burned is owned by the City of Phoenix and was scheduled for renovation so it  was vacant and fenced off. Nobody was supposed to be living there, but firefighters conducted a search to make sure the building was indeed empty. They said it's possible that homeless people might have been squatting there.

The building was an older one that was built with a shared attic space. The lack of fire breaks -- walls designed to contain fires to a limited area -- made things difficult for firefighters. That open attic allowed the flames to spread quickly throughout the entire building.

"Flames were shooting at least 50 feet high," said a neighbor. "It was going pretty good. You could feel the heat all the way back here."

Citizens living the area said they saw some kids lighting grass on fire near the apartment complex. Those kids were then spotted running from the area just as the fire started.

Officers started scouring the area for the kids, even calling in the helicopter to search from the air.

"We started moving south of here down 17th Avenue, and the officers find another fire in a carport in an apartment complex -- unoccupied," explained Detective James Holmes of the Phoenix Police Department. "Children are still running away. We get a little bit further south ... and now there's cars on fire in a carport -- three total, [a 2009 Chevy Malibu, a 2004 BMW and a 2008 Honda]."

After a foot pursuit to the bank of the Arizona Canal, officers detained four boys. A 13-year-old girl was also caught in the area. A sixth suspect was picked up at his home, police said.

All six kids, the youngest of whom is 10 and the oldest of whom is 16, were taken to the Squaw Peak Precinct for processing. Four boys and one girl are being help at the Juvenile Correction Center. One of the boys was released and police are seeking an additional girl in the case.

"We want to know why they were out here at 4:00 in the morning setting fires," Holmes said. "At this time of the morning, you just don't expect this. But what if we don't get  hold of these kids before they start another fire somewhere. Eventually someone is going to get hurt."

At this point, it's now known why or how the alleged suspects -- all of whom are facing allegations of arson and criminal damage -- started the fires. An arson investigation is under way.

While the damage to the apartment building is significant, no injuries were reported in any of the fires.