Reincarnation of O’Henry’s Red Chief in Lancaster
OHIO — July 10, 2018
Yesterday, police in Lancaster, Ohio were searching for an intruder who set fire to a playground in the 1400 block of East Walnut Street.
It only took about an hour to determine who set the fire, which caused about $25,000 in damages, according to the Facebook page of the Lancaster fire department. Capt. K.J. Watts, of the Lancaster FD, said there were no injuries.
But Lt. Randy Greenwald added that the accused arsonist would not be facing any charges, because he's a 7-year-old boy, and he will probably be placed in a diversion program of some kind.
Watts also said that the community came together and helped them to find the boy and resolve the situation quickly. "That's rare, it usually takes a lot longer than that. But it's neat. It's cool that the community worked together like that," he said.
A witness told firefighters the boy was nearby when the fire started and rode his bicycle home afterwards.
Firefighters responded to the fire at the Fairfield County Metropolitan Housing Authority-owned playground at 11:40 a.m. They then contacted the boy's mother and the boy at first denied any involvement in the fire. Police said he admitted to starting it after he was told that his shoes smelled like smoke.
Police said the boy said he started the fire by igniting rubber pellets at the playground. He then tried unsuccessfully to stomp out the fire as it spread, but the fire spread quickly and consumed the entire playground.
We hope the destiny of the young arsonist, who is probably a fan of O’Henry’s stories, is not going to be very tough. But the Fairfield Metropolitan Housing Authority should definitely be concerned about the materials used for constructing playgrounds in the area. Before this incident no one thought that anything other than fire-resistant materials had been used to build up those playgrounds. Now that we know otherwise it's time for the Housing Authority to step up and do something to protect the children that use its playgrounds.