Police: Breakup, Booze Prompted Teen to Set Backyard Blaze

Plainfield 16-year-old allegedly set neighbor’s swingset on fire, then tossed a propane tank at the blaze.

say they didn’t have any trouble tracking down a teenage suspect who allegedly lit his neighbor’s swingset on fire, then threw a propane tank at it in a heartbreak- and alcohol-fueled spree.

Sgt. Mike Fisher said the 16-year-old, who told police he was upset after breaking up with his girlfriend, was arrested early Aug. 2 after a Sunnymere Drive homeowner reported seeing someone set the backyard blaze.

“While [police] were looking for the individual, he had walked back to his house and got into a family car and went to go his girlfriend’s house to confront her,” Fisher said. “He decided not to turn his headlights on — clue No. 1 — so they stopped him” at Sunnymere and Blakely drives.

Fisher said the teen was intoxicated when he lit the ropes of his neighbor’s swingset on fire, then ran to another neighbor’s home and ripped the propane tank off the barbecue grill before tossing it at the flames.

“This individual was angry and intoxicated and for some reason, he thought it would be a smart thing to do,” Fisher said, adding that propane tanks do not explode so easily.

But the homeowner, who asked not to be identified, said he was alarmed when he saw the propane tank in his yard.

The man said his wife was awakened by noises from the backyard around 3 a.m. Thursday. When she looked out the window, the neighbor said, she spotted the teenager standing near the fire.

"She sees this guy standing there with the fire, all these flames lighting all the ropes and the swings," the neighbor said. 

The man said he ran outside, trying to catch up with the suspect.

"As I was going to go to catch him, I ran by the fire and saw the propane tank," the neighbor said. "I was really scared."

The man, the father of two small children, said he believes the teen was trying to create an explosion. 

"He wanted to blow it up," the neighbor said. "That's where our concern is and our fear — he can easily do it again."

The neighbor said while his wife called 911, he used a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze, "just praying it didn't explode in my face," he said. The man said the incident has left his family shaken.

"We were really scared because we were like, 'Where did this come from? Who is he?'" the neighbor said, adding he had never met the teen before.

Fisher said the 16-year-old was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and criminal damage to property. 

J Hill August 08, 2012 at 01:11 PM
What a horrible story. It is crazy how the young people act today with such disrespect for others, not to mention the possiblity of causing harm to others. And again, this is taking place at what time... 3 am? Where are the parents? I will be praying for all of these people and certainly our young kids....I hope for better choices from our future generation.
J Hill August 08, 2012 at 01:28 PM
This is such a horrible and sad story. The total disrespect of other people and their property by young people is awful. We need to really take note to these actions and step up as parents to instill respect for others...because the world wiil not teach our kids this. Speaking of the parents...where are they when this is happening at 3 am. I will be praying for all of thos involved especially the young children that they start making better choices that affect their entire life.
Sheila Raddatz August 08, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I agree, the late night teen operations are quite alarming and destructive and seems to go unpunished. Did you know that Walmart in North Plainfield has spent about $30,000 in one year fixing the fence that the teens damage? Perhaps stronger curfew laws need to be enforced....
MidwestGal August 08, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Even better - stronger parenting, parents who care where there kids are. 16 is still young and impulsive. Know where your kids are and give them morals. Give them knowledge to know right from wrong. Too many people think after 5th grade they are done parenting - far from it. Sad, sad story...but I guess we should be greatful he didn't find a gun and do far worse with his anger. You can spot a disrespectful kid a mile away, and normally, the parents are too.
Christina August 08, 2012 at 04:48 PM
To MidwestGal; you are absolutely correct! 99% of all these damaged kids and teens are because the parents themselves are damaged. Not even the school system can help because anytime a teacher calls for help the response is a screaming outraged parent saying "not my kid!". It is always everyone elses fault and never the fault of the parent and child who cause so much pain and anguish to the children and parents who are doing the right thing. The parents are the new untouchable bullies of this world and that is why the zero tollerance policy will never protect the innocent.
Julie August 08, 2012 at 06:19 PM
OMG!! If that was my son, he would be checking into a psy ward for help. Let's see - 16 yrs old, drunk and out at 3AM - Where are the parents??? They should be arrested as well!!
MidwestGal August 08, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Perfectly said "the parents are the new untouchable bullies of this world"...love that saying! It's like living around the mean girls and playground bullies of our childhood, but now they are parents, and society is living with their offspring! The "not my kid" is sickening. Sad, how did this generation of parents become such unethical beings? Was it all the 80s hairspray and parachute pants that cut off the blood supply to the brain? I just hope and pray that this boy will be helped. One can only hope that maybe he is the child of a single parent or two struggling parents, who work a lot to make ends meet, and he just wants attention? Maybe, I hope, they are doing their best, he's just lost and needs help.
Ray August 08, 2012 at 07:25 PM
So let me get this straight. I work all day, come home have a nice meal with my family, watch a little TV and go to bed so I can be rested and ready to do it again tomorrow. While I sleep my angst riddled, hormone raging teenager has a texting argument with his GFF or BFF, breaks into my locked liquor cabinet, gets loaded, goes out and does something stupid, and I'm a bad parent. WOW! Should I have handcuffed the kid once I went to bed? Nope then you'd be crucifying me for that! By the way I'm not the parent I'm speaking figuratively. When I was 16, hell 10, I was expected to make right decisions and if I didn't it was my fault not my parents. Blame the parents of a real child. A 16 year old should know better. We allow our kids to get to be too old before we hold them responsible for their actions in my opinion. I don't think I'd be too quick to blame the parents the story doesn't seem to provide much detail in that area. You're just blaming someone to blame someone.
HappyParent August 08, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Why would we hope this child is a child of a single parent? That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I was a single parent for two years while my kids were 7, 10 & 17 and none of them ever saw a bit of trouble,nor do they now. Two people as parents can be far less in touch than one single parent. Til you've walked a mile in a single parents shoes, think before you put them down cause it could happen to you Midwest Gal in the blink of an eye and then we can say, poor kids of a single parent home. Blah blah blah.
MidwestGal August 08, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Hang on, by no means am I blaming working parents...my husband and I BOTH work full time...we know the struggles of raising kids, working and running life! My point was parents need to guide and nurture at EVERY AGE. You said "When I was 16, hell 10, I was expected to make right decisions and if I didn't it was my fault not my parents" - exactly the point - who gave you that wisdom at the age of 10?? - you're parents/role model GAVE you the morals and brains to know right from wrong, even at the age of 10. But then you go on "I don't think I'd be too quick to blame the parents the story doesn't seem to provide much detail in that area. You're just blaming someone to blame someone." Who do we blame? You can blame a 16 year old, yes, but they are hormone filled, immature and somewhat incapable of differentiating right from wrong unless they've had a parent/role model to assist with that in life. Too any kids raise themselves and society blames them, locks them up and throws away the key. If, God forbid, my child ever commits a crime, I would ask myself where I went wrong and how I could've prevented it. Any responsible parent will feel somewhat to blame, even when their kids are 16.
Joan Senffner August 08, 2012 at 07:55 PM
And where are the parents of these 16 y/o child??? The REAL problem!!!
MidwestGal August 08, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I simply meant because a single parent has that much more on their plates as far as running the house. So before you ASSume I've never been a single parent, you must chill. But thanks for the irrelevent lecture, blah blah, blah
LJ August 08, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Why is there automatic blame on the parents? Even the best of parents can have troubled children.
Erica August 09, 2012 at 04:25 AM
Ray, while I agree that a 16 year old should know better, it is a parent's responsiblity to know where their kids are at ALL times. I have 2 teenagers and work full-time. I am fully aware of what they are doing whether at work or home, awake or asleep. I also know that liquor can be a temtation which is why we do not keep any in the house and have not since the kids became old enough to stay home without a sittler. As a parent you have a responsiblity to raise your children to know right from wrong and protect them from themselves until they are truly old enough to make good decisions.
Ray August 09, 2012 at 01:01 PM
I was waiting for it. " I am fully aware of what they are doing whether at work or home, awake or asleep" Really? You're aware of what's going on places where you aren't and you're aware of whats going on when you're alseep? Must be hell on your husband. On a more serious note you're just being argumentative. You are not fully aware of what's going on when you aren't there or when you're asleep and if you honestly think you are you're deluding yourself.
HappyParent August 09, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Wow, you both work and hell hasn't broken loose yet, you poor struggling people. "One can only hope that maybe he is the child of a single parent or two struggling parents, who work a lot to make ends meet, and he just wants attention?" I hope too that this doesn't happen to you since you both WORK. How about this - I bet the parents could not have predicted every action of their child. At this point, there is no reason to blame and reason only to hope that moving forward they provide the help that he needs to work thru the issues in his mind and don't turn a blind eye. Life is about moving forward, not laying blame in the past.
HappyParent August 09, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Yes a lot on the plate....but that doesn't mean single parents don't handle things better than two struggling working parents like yourselves. INstead of hoping the child came from a broken home or where two parents are struggling to keep ends together, let's hope the child is able to get the help he needs going forward.
HappyParent August 09, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Agree, even married non struggling people. Even people who have tried for years to get help for a child. Even parents who live in Eutopia believing it will never happen to them. Even people who spend more time posting on PATCH than tending to their home life!
HappyParent August 09, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I agree. Yeah, just like our parents knew every move we made back in the day, right? Me thinks somebody lives in a glass house protected from all of life's little complications.
Sue Rosenorn August 13, 2012 at 02:53 AM
No wonder the girlfriend broke up with this stooge!
bobby salkeld August 13, 2012 at 04:11 AM
How about a teenager all boozed up made some stupid and irrational decisions; which many of us all do when angered or stressed and all boozed to the hilt. Perhaps it was an isolated incident...why jump to the conclusion that he has mental problems?!? And the parents fault? At 16 the child is gaining freedoms, has probably a few already...perhaps he had by being reliable and trustworthy in the past gained some freedoms that in his emotionally troubled state he abused to pour fire, by getting hammered, on an already toxic, albeit fleeting, state of mind...so many opinions backed by very little knowledge of any basic understanding of who the fuck this kid is. Smh
Saby February 02, 2013 at 03:24 PM
What happen with this trouble teen??
Saby March 29, 2013 at 12:46 AM
Hey Ray, guess what I just heard? This kid has now been charged as an adult for some dui deal. Yet another dui. You still think this is just a teen making a stupid mistake AGAIN? So here goes the question again, where are the parents? Or did this kid have another gff dump him and therefore it is ok? I think it shows that there are issues here and total lack of communication and control. So you still think this is not a big deal? How bad does it need to get to give it the right attention? Until he hurts someone or himself? The parents should get professional help so they can help the kid and the family before is too late. It could easily turn into a another "Plainfield arsonist". Or worse...
Ray March 29, 2013 at 02:55 PM
Really? You're trying to argue with me over a comment I made about a completely different situation from August. If bad things keep adding up I don't know that I wouldn't question the parents but you didn't allow me that opportunity. You added a situation and attacked. That being said and until you're willing to post using your name, (as I do), or stop by and say it to my face Mr. or Mrs. keyboard badass I have nothing more to say to you.
Saby March 31, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Haha, is that all you can say? I am sorry if you felt attacked, I am only trying to make my point. Why take it so personal? You are not the parent are you? Stop by where? Smile and have fun, don't let this get to you. I would think you are smarter than this.


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