TORONTO (AP) _ Police arrested five teen-agers and charged them with starting a fire at a tire dump that burned for 17 days, spewing toxic smoke into the air and forcing 600 people from their homes, officials said Thursday.

The teen-agers, ranging in age from 15 to 17, were arrested Thursday and late Wednesday, police said. The Young Offenders Act prohibits disclosing the identitities of those charged.

The arrests were made after tips from the public, police in Ontario said on condition of anonymity.

Investigators had said arson was the cause of the fire at Tyre King Recycling. The dump is in Hagersville, 12 miles north of Lake Erie and 60 miles north of Erie, Ohio.

The fire, fed by 14 million tires, broke out early Feb. 12, forcing the evacuation of hundreds living in a two-mile radius around the blaze.

The Environment Ministry declared Tyre King, Ontario's largest tire dump, an illegal waste site in December 1985.

The fire was initially described as a major environmental disaster, and officials had feared the oily runoff created by the melted tires might have contaminated drinking water in local wells.

But experts said recently that damage from both the oil and smoke was less than had been expected.