Arson Averted on Staten Island! Acetone, Batteries, Smoldering Fires Found in Clove Lakes Park

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The brave firefighters of Engine 163 put out smoldering fires, in what appears to be a serious and planned arson attempt of our beloved forest, in the Royal Oaks section of Clove Lakes Park Sunday afternoon, as families and joggers enjoyed their day in the park, unaware that a potential explosion was about to let loose.

Three  firefighters walked into the woods and were able to put out the fires with a fire extinguisher and a canister filled with water.  The firetruck waited at the top of the trail, just in case hoses of water became a necessity.

The scene was weird: An enclosure of wire fencing, shopping bags hanging all around the fence at intervals,  with something inside each bag. There were empty drink cans squirreled away in various spots, like the hollow of a tree stump.  A flat-surfaced, squat felled tree was covered with a green and purple Easter egg pattern of what appeared to be wrapping paper, as though transformed into a sitting bench for a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163


Perhaps this was a  homeless person’s vision of a sort-of retreat in the woods, making the best of circumstances, as it were. LED string lights surrounded the impromptu “room” like a crown, with a light-up Shamrock decoration nailed to a tree, blessing the scene with good luck. A printed sticker emblazoned with the phrase “I [marijuana leaf] Me” was also affixed to a tree.

But that wasn’t all that was there. This seemingly innocent spot was hiding death and destruction, vipers ready to strike the unaware. What at first glance seemed like a small fire surrounded by rocks, perhaps where someone was heating up a can of Campbell’s Soup, was actually a ticking time bomb. Upon closer inspection, a battery with its outer casing starting to melt, surrounded by smoldering leaves, covered by thick wood and rocks over that, indicated that something was not quite right.

It gets worse from there. Way worse. A taller tree stump over five feet tall was also smoldering, and there was a metal rod going into the tree where the smoldering was, at the bottom oxidized from the heat, terminating at its top with a rock that an inverted acetone can sat on, with its True Value label still affixed, likely purchased at the small hardware store just down Victory Boulevard.

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Looking at this madness, it seems that the only reason the arsonist(s) failed was that everything was still too damp to really ignite and stay lit, as it had been raining heavily in recent days. Even so, it’s clear that whomever was behind this was intent on burning down Royal Oaks, or at least a section of the park. And, perhaps they were of a sadistic bent and made it look inviting so that someone might come closer and end up as a casualty.

On Sunday, September 17th, at about 2:30 PM, two Staten Islander staffers arrived at Clove Lakes Park. Both had earlier covered the charity girls softball tournament at Midland Beach sponsored by Tunnel to Towers Foundation.  Tunnel to Towers is a charity that was created in memory of firefighter Stephen Siller, and helps military and law enforcement families, as well as disabled veterans – a truly noble cause.

The staffers next went to investigate a story in Egbertville. During their walking conversation, the topic became pitching, as the girls in the tournament at Midland Beach pitched underhand, but very fast. One of the staffers explained that they pitched sidearm since they were a kid, and referenced ’80s Kansas City Royals pitcher Dan Quisenberry, famous for his distinctive sidearm sinker.

So, they threw around a wiffle ball for a few minutes, but then decided to venture to Clove Lakes and play catch on the field where there was more space. Once they arrived, the staffers instead decided to go walking on the trails.

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

This is an account from one of the staffers:

“Initially, I thought this was a homeless encampment. I’ve been going in the woods since the ’90s, and it’s not uncommon for someone to set up a home in the park. Sometimes they have a tent, other times they create lean-tos.  Usually the Parks Department gets rid of them, if they’re located in an easy-to-find place. This “camp” was about fifteen feet or so into the woods adjacent to a side trail that cuts between two trails, which is off a well-used paved main trail that goes to the Stonehouse Inn at the bottom of the hill.

“Initially, we were going to pass by without inspecting further, because, well…if it’s someone’s home, they might not want us intruding in their living room.  We saw smoke rising from what appeared to be a fire with rocks around it. That’s illegal, but it happens, so it wasn’t so unusual. But what was strange was it looked like the tree itself seemed to be smoking, too! No one seemed around, so we went closer to get a better look.

“At first, we didn’t realize what we were even looking at. It looked bizarre, definitely, but encampments often are. It registered when I noticed there was an acetone can over one of the smoldering spots.  So then we looked at the other spot more carefully, and upon closer inspection, there was definitely what appeared to be batteries buried under the smoldering leaves. So, we called the fire department, took some photos as well as a short video, and got out of there as fast as we could to get to the street to guide the firefighters to the spot once they arrived. I’m happy it didn’t blow up, especially when we decided to go closer.”


Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

As you can see in the video, Firefighter Klipp stated that it looks like someone with a mental disorder set up this strange scene.  He asked if the park-goers had seen any kids hanging out around the area, and they replied in the negative, as they had just arrived. One of the firefighters even asked if they had done it, to which they again replied in the negative,  obviously. With no witnesses to the crime, the firefighters removed the acetone, batteries, and one of the shopping bags as evidence.

Staten Islanders, if you see something, say something. Don’t wait for the next person to get involved. It may cost someone their life. What if the fire had gone up? Firefighters would have to risk their lives fighting a blazing forest. Joggers might have gotten  hit with shrapnel from the can of acetone. Moms with babies in strollers might have gotten  singed with burning debris thrown by the explosion of the batteries. And as for wildlife, their homes would have been destroyed.

Don’t be afraid to be curious. Please remember that it just takes a second to check out something that doesn’t seem right, and it’s not minding other people’s business to make sure we are all safe.

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163


Arson attempt at Clove Lakes Park foiled by FDNY Engine 163

Banner Image: Video cover. Image Credit – Staten Islander News


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This byline indicates that this article was penned by a member/members of the Staten Islander News Organization office team. Our staff writers are the backbone of our newspaper, performing all sorts of important tasks like conducting interviews, investigating leads, besides writing the news stories you see.

14 Comments

  • ninjapaul ninjapaul says:

    I’m always careful in public places because some of the homeless are really unpredictable. Some have diagnosed mental issues. If you go in the park, always be aware. There are 500,000 people on SI, as much as we want to appreciate that in many ways the island is not like NYC, it isn’t still the island from when I was a kid, when the population was lower. The last stables and farms are gone. And,the island is now set to grow at a rapid pace. So always watch your surroundings.

    • Avatar Larry T says:

      Why homeless? What homeless person tries to burn down the place they stay? I think it was kids. I’ve seen kids do some stupid ****. They find they can do stuff once they are hanging out without their parents and so they do stuff. But not all stuff you can do, should you do. They may be young but they can cause serious damage. Kids don’t think things through at that age. If it wasn’t kids, homeless comes next. Some of them are crazy, I mean be real. It’s sad but it’s reality. Someone took the time to do all that. It can range from a really bad prank to a serious nutjob.

      • Avatar Kerri says:

        What kind of prank is it top attract someone there, if for no other reason than to put out the fire, and have a can of acetone set up with batteries? That is sick. Staten Islanders, if you live near woods, look out for arsonists. Obviously, they are here and vicious, too. Arson is the work of insane minds.

      • Avatar See Something Say Something says:

        The shamrock is too high to be kids. This was someone with a ladder or very tall.

      • Avatar . says:

        u assume they stay there

        they may sleep in another park

      • Avatar cccccccccccccccrrr says:

        Homeless people just don’t not make sense, Larry. You’re thinking like Larry. I am sure you work and have a life.

        Homeless people often are hungry, thirsty, dirty, lacking good sleep, on drugs, alcoholic, mentally ill, emotionally disturbed. Some are veterans of wars, C-PTSD survivors.

        You can’t expect what they do to make sense. A schizophrenic ascribes value to things that just isn’t there. Your mind is not jumbled, Larry. So I couldn’t rule out homeless.

        But there are so many things like the shamrock. That was weird.

      • Avatar Utz Addicted says:

        no way was it kids

        someone who hates the park and people

        am I the only one or could this have been bad?

  • Avatar Westerleigh resident says:

    See something, say something

    don’t be afraid to speak up and get involved

    • Avatar Better Advice says:

      DON’T GET INVOLVED.

      Please don’t listen to this advice. Don’t confront people. Call 911 and get the hell away. They could be armed or have a weapon. Even might throw a bottle or mace you.

  • Avatar Fran says:

    Thank you, FDNY. You saved our woods! 🙂 The trees take so long to grow. And people could have been hurt.

  • Avatar anonymous says:

    Watching the video, I get such a bad vibe. Whoever did this intended to hurt someone.

    • Avatar Frankie in Port Town says:

      I agree. I just looked at the video again today. It occurred to me that someone was trying to draw people in. Make them curious. And the two people in the video did just that. They were drawn in closer.

      They took the bait and checked out the various elements that someone had juxtaposed. Took photos, video. As many if not most would do in this day and age. Call the Fire Department and take some photos. But every second you stick around a scene like that increases the possibility of being right there when it explodes.

      And the bright wrapping paper? Made into a cozy bench? The “I love weed” key chain or whatever? The weird hanging red bags? The photo of the guy and girl? Just so much to check out. I feel it’s meant to make no sense. Just a bunch of crap there to attract someone, maybe a young person with the bright colors?

      No, I think this was sinister.

  • Avatar Kim says:

    Many thanks to the fire department! We love the woods at Clove Lakes and you averted a disaster!!!

  • Avatar Concerned Islander says:

    People are sick. This is proof.

    I’m happy no person, animal, or tree was hurt. The firefighter was right. It is mental illness. But you can’t deny that this was also evil. It’s emotional illness, as well as spiritual illness. That’s what evil is, by definition.

    I agree with Paul. This is NYC. Don’t let them catch you sleeping. There are evildoers, creeps., pervs, shysters, thieves, charlatans, scam artists, vengeful nutjobs, racist cretins, and degens of every color and shape and size in this gigantic metro area.

    It’s like a video game, life. Every event is based on probability. Sure, most of the times you go to the park, Clove Lakes is nice and you see families. But there is always the chance it’s one of the above characters. That’s what our population is, these days. Maybe a small percentage, but they’re there. There have probably always been there.

    I don’t want to see the woods burned down because we’ve all just become apathetic and afraid. Or worse, see people harmed. It makes sense to be cautious, because the only ones who would have done this **** are people who would fit one or more of the above categories.

    They intended to, at the very least, burn down a habitat that is home to birds, squirrels, raccoons, and so much more life. But it’s right near a main path. I hope the people who found this and called the fire department realize by now it was a bad idea to stick around even a second taking video. You’re lucky you didn’t suffer burns or worse.

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