Port Orchard teen sentenced to at least two years for Arnold’s fire

A Port Orchard teen who helped set the fire that destroyed Arnold’s Home Furnishings last summer will spend at least two years in a rehabilitation center, according to Kitsap County Superior Court records.

The 17-year-old was sentenced Friday to 103 to 129 weeks (25 to 32 months) in a Juvenile Rehabilitation Center Friday, after being found guilty of first-degree arson last month.

Arnold’s, a 66,000-square foot building on Kitsap Way in Bremerton, went up in flames July 27.

Three youths were reported to be skateboarding near the store the night of the fire, and on Sept. 10, the 17-year-old was arrested and charged with arson. At the time, investigators believed he broke a window and used a lighter and can of butane to ignite a couch inside the furniture store.

Two other teens were arrested for the fire, but were released and are not expected to be charged.

Prior to the teen’s sentencing, Betty Arnold, who started the business in 1951 with her husband, Wendell, wrote a letter to the court expressing her dismay at losing the business.

“This is a heart-rending position to be in,” said Arnold, 91, who worked in the store until she was 80. She described watching “the 58-year-old business burn away” as “devastating.”

Arnold thanked all the firefighters who responded, and said she was grateful that no one was injured in the fire.

“All of our employees were very much affected by ... the fire,” she said. “Despite our property damage, I am wishing that the ones involved in this tragic accident will earn to lead responsible lives.”

Ralph Erickson, who owns the property and manages the furniture store, estimated that the fire destroyed 70 percent of the property and caused $10-12 million in damages, according to court documents.

Erickson said that the company was attempting to fill customer orders since the fire, but it had lost business and profits, along with resource information, customer contact information and computer back-ups.

“This was a devastating blow to people that work at Arnold’s,” he said. “It is all gone; we (had to) start from base one and work it up.”

He said he felt that the teen “should be tried as an adult, as this was an adult-type crime. This was not a prank, and he was old enough to know better.”

Deputy Prosecutor Julie Gaffney said rehabilitation centers where the teen will be serving his time are typically campus-like settings that offer classes and job opportunities.

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