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2 boys charged in fire that destroyed New Jersey playground: officials

LINDEN, N.J. — Two juveniles face arson charges in a fire that destroyed a New Jersey playground, causing about $80,000 worth of damage, over the weekend, the Linden Police Department said Monday.

Police and fire officials responded to reports of a blaze at Wales Park, also known as Sgt. Alexander Wales Memorial Park, located at 32 West Curtis St., just after 4:30 p.m. Sunday, according to police.

A “large fire with heavy black smoke” was found in the park’s playground area, police said.

Fire crews managed to extinguish it in about five minutes, but not before the blaze destroyed the playground, according to police.

The fire caused an estimated $80,000 in damage, police said.

Police said the blaze appeared suspicious, and upon reviewing surveillance video and speaking to neighbors, were able to identify two boys wanted for questioning, Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said.

The boys, believed to be underage, were taken in for questioning, Armstead said.

Hours later, police confirmed two minors, ages 11 and 13, face charges of second-degree arson and third-degree criminal mischief.

Both were released to their parents, pending an appearance in juvenile court, police said.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Det. Phil Marcus at 908-474-8520.