The Lakeland Police Department announced this afternoon that officers on Tuesday arrested a 17-year-old teen on a felony second-degree arson charge in connection with one of the fires reported recently in the Dixieland and Lake Morton neighborhoods.
In a Facebook post, the department said Bradley Thomas Nicholson admitted to setting fire to five lawn chairs in the bed of a pickup truck on Lake Morton Drive on Friday morning.
“While in custody, Nicholson also admitted to having a role in incidents at Dobbins Park, where two additional fires occurred,” the department said in the Facebook post.
At Dobbins Park on Ariana Street, a sliding board and a trash can inside the restroom were set afire Saturday morning.
The investigation continues as detectives work with state fire investigators, and additional charges “may be forthcoming,” the post said.
At least 16 fires were reported in the early morning hours of June 12, last Friday and last Saturday.
First, seven garbage and recycling containers were set ablaze on June 12, according to police spokeswoman Robin Tillet. Six more were set afire Friday morning. Also Friday morning, five lawn chairs were torched on a truck bed on Lake Morton Drive, and so was a construction dumpster at a work site on Florida Avenue at East Ridgewood Street.
Parks Director Bob Donahay estimated Saturday’s damage to Dobbins Park at $2,000. The playground equipment will be replaced, City Manager Tony Delgado said Monday, and the city is determining how much of the costs will be covered by insurance.
Also targeted were wooden fences, according to ABC Action News, which quoted Dixieland residents who said they feared a fire could get out of hand and spread to houses.