Evaluations scheduled for juvenile

Boy charged in playground fire due in court Feb. 22

PORT ANGELES — A 14-year-old boy charged in December with setting the early morning fire Dec. 20 at the Generation II Dream Playground will be back in Clallam County Juvenile and Family Court on Feb. 22.

Attorneys for both sides are trying to reach a “global resolution” for the first-degree arson charge and several other charges.

The boy is scheduled to undergo mental health evaluations this week and next.

“I see you are in sweats, good for you. It is a bonus that’s hard to earn,” Superior Court Judge Simon Barnhart of Clallam County told the boy after noticing he wasn’t wearing a detention uniform.

The boy was charged Dec. 26 with first-degree arson, making a false statement to a public servant and resisting arrest.

The fire, reported at 3:44 a.m. Dec. 20, shot flames as high as the evergreens, estimated at 60 feet tall, around the playground at Erickson Playfield at 302 S. Race St. in Port Angeles.

The ferocity of the fire melted a nearby overhead light, as well as parts of an adjacent swing set, and much of the artificial play surface was charred and blackened. The smell of burned materials permeated the park and the sidewalk along Race Street.

The fire melted most of the nearly $118,000 worth of playground equipment the city purchased for the second-generation playground, which was built by volunteers in 2021.

Another community build is tentatively planned between May 14-19, according to Steve Methner, president of the Dream Playground Foundation.

Corey Delikat, Port Angeles Parks and Recreation director, said it’s estimated to cost between $550,000 and $600,000 to rebuild the playground.

The Dream Playground Foundation has received about $175,000 in donations “without even asking the community for a dime,” Delikat said.

The foundation also has $50,000 in endowment money, leaving it between $100,000 and $150,000 to raise, Delikat said.

The city has submitted an insurance claim through the Washington Cities Insurance Authority. If it comes through, the $250,000 approved by the Port Angeles City Council on Tuesday night would be returned to the city’s lodging tax fund.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.

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