VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver teenager accused of burning down Crestline Elementary School in 2013 faced a judge for the first time Thursday.
Charged with one count of second-degree arson, the 17-year-old teen was booked into the juvenile justice system and released to his parents. Because of his age, KGW is not identifying the suspect.
According to court documents obtained by KGW, the boy admitted to setting coats on fire near Crestline Elementary School in Southeast Vancouver in the early morning hours of February 3, 2013.
Background: Crestline fire takes emotional toll on families
The admission came five days after the fire. The documents say he told officials one of the coats ignited a bench that was located next to the building and then it spread to the school.
Before long, the entire building was destroyed.
Some might be outraged that it took a year for the teen to be charged with arson. But investigators have said they needed to be sure of the facts, and the boy and his family were cooperative the entire time.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms even made a model of the school building to test how the fire started.
Wearing a suit and only saying, "Yes, your honor" to the judge, the suspect stayed quiet with his parents, lawyer and many family friends by his side.
Charged with arson, the teen was booked but released to his parents until his arraignment.
The Evergreen School District says by this September, the fire will have caused $22 million in damages, including the cost to move all the kids to a temporary school and build a new one on the same site.
Crestline School parents have some closure, finally hearing what fire investigators say caused it.
"It just seemed like a prank or fooling around got so huge that a school burnt down," said Monica Ashton.
Her daughter was a student there last year.
"You want to say, 'Boys will be boys.' That's a hard, hard lesson to learn and the consequences will be huge and he'll have to pay that. My heart goes out to the parents," Ashton said.
Another teen that was with the suspect the night of the fire is only considered a witness and is not being charged, according to court papers.
It's not known yet if the school's insurance company will go after the suspect's parents to recoup some costs.
The teen will be back in court in June.