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Contact: Sgt. Peter Culver, U.S. Park Police, 718-354-4583
Contact: John Warren, 718-354-4608
Five local juveniles were arrested Monday, January 30 by U.S. Park Police at Spring Creek, a wildland area of Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City. They were charged with lighting a fire in an undesignated area.
The youths, ages 16 - 17, were from Ozone Park, a community near Spring Creek. The park area directly adjoins the Howard Beach residential neighborhood in Queens.
While patrolling the area during high fire danger conditions, park firefighters noticed the individuals acting suspiciously. After the suspects entered park land, firefighters attempted to locate them, first by vehicle and then on foot. While walking the trails, firefighters saw and smelled smoke and headed in that direction.
All five were standing near an uncontained fire on an ATV trail. They admitted to lighting the fire, which was being pushed by gusty winds toward tall stands of phragmites a short distance away. While extinguishing the blaze, firefighters detained the five suspects and contacted Park Police.Officers responded quickly and took the suspects into custody.
The suspects were charged with lighting a fire in an undesignated area (36CFR 2.13(a)(1) - Fires Outside Established Area). Each was cited to appear in federal court and released to a guardian.
Since November 2011, 16 fires have burned in Spring Creek. The largest of these fires burned five acres December 17. Gateway experienced 42 fires in 2011, making the urban park the third most active park unit for wildland fires in the National Park Service.
The park encourages anyone who sees suspicious behavior within its boundaries to contact U.S. Park Police Dispatch at 718-338-3988. Gateway's Jamaica Bay Unit areas include Floyd Bennett Field, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Jacob Riis Park, Canarsie Pier, Fort Tilden, Breezy Point, Plumb Beach and Frank Charles Park.
About Gateway National Recreation Area
Established in 1972, Gateway National Recreation Area offers more than 26,000 acres of marshes, wildlife sanctuaries and recreational athletic facilities, miles of sandy beaches; indoor and outdoor classrooms; picnicking and camping areas, as well as historic structures and military installations, airfields, a lighthouse, and adjacent waters around New York harbor. The park offers urban residents in two states a wide range of recreational opportunities year round. With more than nine million visitors a year, it is the third most visited national park in the country. For information about Gateway's upcoming public programs, see the park's Web site at http://www.nps.gov/gate/index.htm