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20-year-old charged with arson for burning parents' house

OLIVIA, Minn. — A 20-year-old man lit his parents' Olivia home on fire early Dec. 3, authorities say — but not before he had moved his DVDs, books, computer and other personal items out of the way.

Wahkan Otahta Blackhawk was charged Feb. 8 in Renville County District Court with three felonies for first-degree arson and negligent fire.

Originally, Renville County deputies believed the fire — reported around 6:45 a.m. from the 79000 block of 350th Street in rural Olivia — was caused by a rag with lighter fluid on it that had spontaneously combusted overnight, a news release stated.

That was also the explanation Blackhawk initially told the sheriff's office immediately after the fire, according to the criminal complaint on the charges. He lived in the home with his parents and two 3-year-old children.

His story changed. According to the criminal complaint, Blackhawk told investigators in a subsequent interview he had actually decided to test his lighter after accidentally spilling some lighter fluid. When he did that, he said, he accidentally dropped the lighter into the lighter fluid, igniting the fire.

Authorities came to a slightly different explanation, court documents say. They believe the fire was actually ignited after 16 ounces of lighter fluid from three separate bottles was poured upstairs in the home, then lit on fire with a Zippo-style lighter.

Blackhawk moved DVDs, books, his computer and a blanket into a different room before allegedly igniting the fire.

According to the criminal complaint, Blackhawk watched the fire for a while, then tried to extinguish it with a pail of water. When that didn't work, he went down two flights of stairs, filled another pail and tried again unsuccessfully.

Fire alarms blaring, he woke the rest of his family, who had been asleep in the home. All escaped safely.

The Olivia Fire Department arrived 15 minutes later to flames through the roof of the home. The residence sustained between $50,000 and $75,000 worth of damage, displacing all five residents.

Blackhawk is currently in custody at the Renville County Jail.