HOULTON, Maine — A Missouri man accused of setting fire to playground equipment at a rest area on U.S. Route 1 in Houlton early Thursday has been arrested and charged with arson.
Alma Allison, 29, of Kirksville, Mo., turned himself in at about 2 p.m. on Thursday to officers at the Houlton Police Department. Allison, who suffers from the mental illness schizophrenia, was reported missing from his home in Missouri on June 13, according to police. He reportedly left home without his medication.
Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said Friday that Officers Richard York, Kris Calaman and Sgt. Eric Crouse responded just before 6 a.m. to a report of a fire at the rest area.
Upon arrival, the officers discovered playground equipment at what is known locally as the Tourist Information Center was burning. The equipment at the rest area is made of wood and has been there for decades.
The Houlton Fire Department quickly extinguished the fire.
Located at the scene were a bottle of charcoal lighter fluid and a box of matches. Asselin said that damage to the equipment was described as minimal.
At about 2 p.m., Allison entered the station and informed the dispatcher that he wanted to turn himself in for setting the playground equipment on fire earlier that day.
Allison’s name was run through the National Crime Information Center and it was discovered that he was reported missing on June 13 by his parents, who reside in Missouri. The center indicated that Allison suffers from schizophrenia and left Missouri without his medication.
Allison allegedly told police that he purchased the lighter fluid and matches at Wal-Mart in Bangor. The chief said that Allison was very candid and forthright in his discussion with police. He said that he drove to Houlton, stopped at the rest area, spread lighter fluid onto the playground equipment and lit a match. Police described his demeanor as passive and non-threatening.
The chief added that when Allison was asked why he turned himself in, the man explained that he had been traveling for a few days, wanted to return to work and was looking for some help. Allison had about $60 in his possession.
York contacted Wal-Mart in Bangor. Store officials were able to locate Allison’s receipt and video footage of the transaction. York also contacted Allison’s father who was grateful to the police department. Allison’s parents are going to attempt to locate someone who can come to Maine from Missouri and bring their son home, according to the chief.
Allison remains at the Aroostook County Jail where he will be provided medical assistance for his illness while incarcerated, Asselin said Friday.