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6 year-old boy accused of setting 2 separate fires

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- Flames and families displaced after two fires in two separate homes in Chesapeake.

A 6-year-old told authorities he was responsible for setting the fires.

The first fire was started back in late June when a mother and her eight children were displaced. Then, almost three weeks later on July 18 her friend's house also caught fire across town.

Fire officials determined the child tossed a lighter into a closet and sparked the blaze.

Both families have been homeless for weeks.

"It's been the hardest month of my life. I contemplated putting my kids in foster care," said Lakeshia Arnold, the mother of eight.

But today, Arnold learned her eight children will have a roof over their head hopefully by early next week, according to the Housing Authority.

And she said she forgives her friend's son for starting the fire.

"I told her that I don't hold any ill feelings cause he's a child. I still love this family," said Arnold.

Now the boy will undergo a program with the Chesapeake Fire Department called Juvenile FireSetters.

Chesapeake Master Firefighter and Life Safety Officer Bridgette Hoilman said, "Hopefully, you can teach these children some of the devastating consequences of what they're doing."

Hoilman started the program over a decade ago.

Kids as young as three and as old as 17 have gone through the program that lasts several weeks.

They're interviewed, they educated about the dangers of fire, they're brought to the burn unit at the hospital and taken to the jail to learn about the consequences of starting fires.

The program aims to reduce problems in the future with kids that are drawn to fire. Hoilman said the program looks at each child individually and tries to figure out why the child is setting fires.

The children are usually referred to our program by way of concerned teachers, firefighters, parents or juvenile service agencies.

"I think the biggest thing I can say is never take something like that lightly. Get them enrolled in a program and get intervention started to let them know what could possibly happen if they continue that behavior," said Hoilman.

Fire officials say thousands of kids have gone through the program in Chesapeake since it started 13 years ago.