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POLICE ARREST 5 TEENS IN FIRE PRANKS INCIDENTS PLAGUED WILLIAMSVILLE EAST

Five teen-agers were arrested by Amherst police Thursday in connection with a series of fire-related incidents at Williamsville East High School dating back to last December.

Three of the youths face felony charges and the two others misdemeanors, said police, adding that their investigation was continuing.

The trouble at the school, at 151 Paradise Road, began last December. Police said that since Dec. 16, there have been 14 false fire alarms caused by pulled boxes, 3 smoke bombs set off and 6 fires set in trash containers.

At least four of the teens are students at the school and have been suspended from classes.

Arrested were:

Brendon C. Burns, 17, of 111 Shadow Wood Drive, who was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon -- which police identified as an incendiary device, and attempted second-degree arson stemming from an April 21 fire. Both charges are felonies.

Donald Ritz Jr., 19, of 712 Klein Road and Matt Lennert, 18, of 5050 Sheridan Drive, who each were charged with attempted second-degree arson, in connection with fires on April 19 and May 7, respectively.

Daniel Setlik, 17, of 12 Valleybrook Lane and Luke Chambers, 16, of 36 Laurie Lee, who each were charged with misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting an incident, relating to incidents on Dec. 21 and May 3, respectively.

Initially, alarm boxes at the school were hit or pulled, forcing fire companies to respond to a series of false alarms. But officials said the incidents soon escalated. Students began setting off smoke bombs, holding flaming pieces of paper under smoke detectors and tossing matches into trash containers, authorities reported.

A custodian was able to extinguish the burning trash containers before the fires got out of control, a fire official said.

Interim Superintendent George W. Oliver previously said the school enacted measures in an attempt to stop the fires, including using teachers to monitor hallways throughout the school day.

The Amherst police investigation is headed by Detectives Tom Kenney and Mike Dailey, and includes Detectives Gary Woods, Bob Bechtold, Larry Bainbridge and Jack Griffin.

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