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Fire destroys play area

Teenage boys arrested Thursday on suspicion of setting fire at Glorietta Park.

August 27, 2010|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com
(Alex Hartounian )

NORTH GLENDALE— Two teenage boys were arrested early Thursday on suspicion of setting a refurbished playground at Glorietta Park on fire, officials said.

The fire destroyed the playground, causing between $50,000 to $70,000 in damage, officials said. The playground set had been refurbished about nine to 10 months ago.

City crews on Thursday morning tore down the structure and replaced it with wood chips.

"I am sad and really angry at these kids," said George Chapjian, director of Community Services and Parks Department.

The boys, aged 13 and 14, were arrested early Thursday, and each face two felony counts of arson, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

The boys reportedly stacked a pile of wood chips near the playground set and used a lighter to set it on fire, he said. The boys believed they stomped out the fire and walked over to a second playground set, where they

again set wood chips on fire and before stomping it out, he added.

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While the boys were at second playground, the first fire that they had set reignited and engulfed the structure, Lorenz said. The boys fled the park before police and fire crews arrived.

"They were playing with fire, basically," Lorenz said.

Fire crews and police arrived at the park about 5:39 p.m. after several witnesses reported plumes of thick smoke in the 2800 block of North Verdugo Road, officials said.

Police reported flames at the park's playground reaching as high as 50 feet, Lorenz said.

The large plumes of black smoke were a result of the burning plastic, Glendale Fire Capt. Stuart Stefani said.

Some of the fire had also spread to brush and trees in the park near adjacent homes, he said.

Once fire crews put out the blaze, Glendale police and fire arson investigators

found clothing and several snack bags on the playground, so they went to a liquor store across the street, Lorenz said.

Officers reviewed surveillance video that showed two boys — one was wearing clothing matching evidence found at the scene — coming in and out of the store, he said.

Police tracked down the boys and arrested them, Lorenz said. They were released the same day to their parents, who he said were cooperating with police.

City officials are looking at available funding options to replace the playground set, which Chapjian said was popular among families.

"It's a priority to get it replaced," he said, adding that purchasing a new playground set is an unanticipated expense for his department's budget.

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