Children blamed for fire

DANIELLE Jaenke first knew something was amiss when she started smelling smoke.

Ms Jaenke and other employees of the Centro (Valley) Shopping Centre businesses panicked fearing chemicals and products may have been burning on Saturday afternoon.

"You don't know what could have gone up,'' Ms Jaenke said. Running out of the business Ms Jaenke saw a smoke filled corridor towards the public toilets.

Masses of thick smoke choked the corridor and billowed out of the men's toilets.

Shopping centre staff helped put out the fire until Gladstone Fire and Rescue arrived.

Gladstone Police said two nineyear-old children and one 11-yearold had been caught and spoken to.

Juvenile Aid Bureau Detective Sergeant Joe Nixon said the fire had been started with sparklers.

He said the children tried to light a number of things including the waste basket and the hand drier which was scorched.

"They lit the soap dispenser,'' Det Sgt Nixon said.

"The case melted and the mirror above it was cracked and the wall and roof damaged.

"They then tried to light the roof to no avail.'' Employees were able to describe the children to police and they were caught shortly after.

"One of the suspects was found with a cigarette lighter,'' Det Sgt Nixon said.

The matter is still being investigated and the children will be referred to behavioural counselling and the Fight Fire Fascination program to teach children about the dangers of fire.

Det Sgt Nixon warned others the incident was very serious and could have had grave ramifications.

"It's a very dangerous act,'' he said.

Anyone with information on a crime should phone Gladstone police on 49713222 or Crime Stopper on 1800 333 000.



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