Employees at Milton School have reported finding the remains of several fires on school grounds to Rye Police Department and the School District since early June.
By Tom McDermott
Employees at Milton School have reported finding the remains of several fires on school grounds to the Rye Police Department and the School District since early June. Someone was setting fires during the night in the parking lot and near the playground, and evidence pointed to the use of gasoline as an accelerant.
According to Lt. Robert Falk of RPD, after discovering the remains of one fire, employees also found a can of gasoline near a fence on the west side of the property. And, although none of the fires had been set close to the school building itself, RPD became extremely concerned.
In order to try to put a quick stop to the setting of fires and prevent the possibility of danger to the school itself, RPD Detective and Patrol Divisions arranged to stake out the school roof and grounds on the night of June 18. That night, they observed four youths at the scene, one of whom allegedly used the gasoline to start a fire. A foot chase ensued, after which the four, all 16- to 17-year-old Rye High School minors, were apprehended. The Rye Fire Department was called in to quickly extinguish the fire.
Statements made to police by three of the accused after their arrests, indicate that the gas can was stolen from a boat or boats at the town dock.
In a June 19 letter, Milton Principal JoAnne Nardone informed parents of the fires and the School District’s cooperation with RPD and RFD. Nardone noted “minor damage was sustained to the blacktop and a small portion of the wall of the butterfly garden was charred.” She thanked School Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez, the School Board, and both RPD and RFD for “handling the situation quickly and effectively to protect everyone at Milton School.”
A statement later released, after a request by the paper, by Superintendent Alvarez, acknowledged that the four boys are all juniors. Alvarez added that District disciplinary action will be determined pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Three of the youths appeared in Rye City Court June 24 and were charged as youthful offenders with Trespass, a violation.
The fourth boy was also charged as a youthful offender, with Arson in the Fifth Degree. Since that is a misdemeanor offense, and the accused is a minor, his case was sealed.
In court, the District Attorney requested that the three youths charged with trespass undergo mental health screenings prior to their return to court in early August.