CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) - A Buffalo teenager is in custody, charged with setting the fire that destroyed a popular piece of playground equipment in a Cheektowaga town park last Friday.
PHOTO GALLERY | Flames consuming jungle gym in park
Flames reached 20- to 30-feet in the air as burning plastic and wood chips went up in flames at the jungle gym in Kelly Park. It was a heartbreaking loss for kids and adults, who regularly used the state-of-the-art playground that was adjacent to a pre-school and close to a grade school.
EduKids Director Debbie McCormick said, "There are a lot of children that use this park in the community, in addition to us, and it is just devastating for the community and for us here at EduKids."
Cheektowaga Police grabbed three teens running away from the scene, and one of them had a lighter. Captain Jim Speyer says a 13-year-old boy eventually admitted starting by fire, but said it was an accident. The boy had apparently lit a pine cone on fire that was in the wood chips.
Town officials estimate the cost of replacing the jungle gym could range from $70,000 to $100,000. The teen is charged with criminal mischief and his case will go to Family Court.
"I'm sure there will be some point where he and his family will have to make restitution to the town," said Capt. Jim Speyer.
Park crews will start tearing down the remnants of the jungle gym on Wednesday. But town officials say they do not have the money in this year's budget to replace the ruined playground equipment.
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