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    What if I start a fire that gets out of control?

    Date: 09.07.07 | by Judge Tom.

    Most fires are either accidental or acts of nature: defective wiring or appliances, lightning, campfires, or explosions. A number of fires, though, are intentionally set. Depending on the amount of damage and the exact cause, these fires constitute crimes called arson or reckless burning.

    Arson is defined as unlawfully and knowingly damaging property by causing a fire or explosion. Reckless burning is recklessly causing a fire or explosion that results in property damage. You may not have intended to damage anything, but your behavior was careless and reckless. For example, making a firebomb or any explosive device is dangerous and illegal. Whether a fire was intentional or not, you and your parents may have to pay all or part of the damage you caused.

    If you find yourself in a fire situation and are unsure what to do, ask for help immediately by dialing the operator or 911, or contact your fire department.

    Update: Not all of the October, 2007 California wildfires were caused by nature. One fire that burned 38,000 acres in northern Los Angeles County was started by a 10-year-old boy playing with matches. He accidentally set some brush outside his home on fire. With no evidence of intent to commit arson, the boy was not charged with any crime.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    1 Comment subscribe to these comments.

    • tiffany gerald
      Fri, 23 Jul 2010 at 11:42

      recently in june there was a food fight in my middle school people started throwing food all over the outside the cafeteria and it got crazy. the next day there was a school staff recording with a good video camera kinda looked like those they used to film movies. my question is did he had the right to go and video tape record the cafeteria full of kids just because of the food fight or is what hes doing illegal. im from hollywood california if that helps thank you judge.
      Dear Tiffany: When you’re in a public place there’s little privacy that you can claim. Schools, banks, stores etc. have video cameras set up intentionally to record mischief and crimes. Everyone knows this so there’s no expectation of privacy. All the best.
      [This is information only – not legal advice].