Chattanooga fire investigators said late today they are trying to determine what charges will be filed against a 9-year-old boy who confessed to starting a fire that gutted the Dollar General Store in Hixson.
The boy told firefighters that he was mad at his mother, so he walked to the rear of the store and set rolls of bathroom tissue on fire, said Bruce Garner, fire department spokesman.
Store manager Tammy Laney smelled smoke, found the fire and tried to put the flames out but was unsuccessful, Mr. Garner said. Ms. Laney got everyone out of the store and called 911, he said.
The Chattanooga Fire Department received the call at 5:45 p.m. and responded with six fire companies to 4852 Hixson Pike, Mr. Garner said.
"At first, it appeared that the firefighters would be able to get the fire under control fairly quickly, but the fire got into the attic and was difficult to locate in the thick, black smoke," he said. "The firefighters made an interior attack and tried to use thermal imaging cameras to locate the fire. However, other firefighters noticed that the roof was beginning to sag, so the order was given to evacuate the building for the safety of the firefighters."
As the fire spread, Battalion Chief Bob Dixon called for a second alarm response to bring in more firefighters and equipment. The firefighters eventually got the blaze under control, he said, and no injuries were reported.
The firefighters kept the fire from destroying an adjacent building, previously a grocery store but now vacant, officials said.
The Dollar General Store, which employed seven people, and its contents will be considered a total loss, officials said.
Chattanooga police, Hamilton County EMS and Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue personnel provided assistance at the scene.