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No Charges Filed Against Boys Responsible for Forest Fire
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Six primary schoolboys who accidentally started a fire that engulfed a forest reserve in southwest China will not be prosecuted, local police said on Sunday.


The six boys have returned to classes, and are under careful supervision from their teachers and parents, said Yang Fudong, head of the forestry public security bureau of Dali in Yunnan Province, on Sunday afternoon.


As Chinese law sets the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 14, the six boys, one 12 and the others 11, were released on Thursday after questioning by the police, said Yang.


The fire began on Thursday morning and quickly spread over 233 hectares. Firefighters battled the blaze for two days, finally extinguishing it at 5:00 PM on Friday, government sources said.


More than 10,000 people, including soldiers, forestry police, and local residents, joined in the fire-fighting operation, they added.


Firefighters are still dealing with a few minor smoldering pockets on Cangshan Mountain, part of the Cangshan and Erhai National Nature Reserve, a famous scenic spot.


The boys who started the blaze are fourth graders and fifth graders at Longquancun Primary School in Xiaguan town, of the Bai Autonomous Prefecture of Dali, a spokesman with the local public security department told Xinhua.


One of them, a boy surnamed He, was watching TV at home when a Xinhua reporter visited him Sunday afternoon.


"We were playing on the mountain behind the Jiangfeng Temple, when I grasped a handful of grass and lit it with a lighter I had in my pocket. I used the lighter to ignite the firecrackers during Spring Festival," he said.


Force five winds quickly spread the fire.


"We were really scared. Three of my friends were so frightened that they ran away. Two ran into the temple to report it to adults. I tried to put out the fire with branches but it didn't work. I could do nothing but watch helplessly as the fire raged up the mountain," he recalled.


"He is a usually a good boy and I always tell him not to play with fire. I never imagined he could be involved in this kind of trouble," said his mother, crying.


"Although the boys are exempted from criminal responsibility, we will look into the responsibilities of their guardians, their parents, the forest keepers, and the town and the school administrators," said Li Xiong, deputy chief of the Bai Autonomous Prefecture of Dali.


"We'll also strengthen fire-prevention and law education, especially among children," Li added.


Related News: Wild Fire Put out in Yunnan


                       Forest Fire Rages in SW China


(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2007)

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