Arson causes $5 million in damages at Niagara Falls HS

Rickey Ponds arraigned on arson and criminal mischief

Mike Baggerman
February 26, 2020 - 3:17 pm
Remnants of a fire allegedly caused by Rickey Barnes at Niagara Falls High School (Photo via Niagara Falls Schools)

Remnants of a fire allegedly caused by Rickey Barnes at Niagara Falls High School (Photo via Niagara Falls Schools)

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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WBEN) - A disgruntled employee allegedly set fire to the maintenance shed at Niagara Falls High School on Tuesday night and has been charged with multiple crimes.

Rickey Ponds was fired after he allegedly set fire to the shed around 9:15 p.m. that caused nearly $5 million in damages. The garage was built less than 20 years ago and was a hub for the maintenance department.

Niagara Falls Superintendent Mark Laurrie said Wednesday that Ponds was temporarily working in the buildings and grounds department and was going to revert to his former position as a cleaner for the school. Ponds bought a lighter at Wal-Mart before he allegedly set fire to the building.

"He called in sick for work (Tuesday) and many of our staff just wanted to check on him and see if he was okay," Laurrie said. "He never returned our call. We have tons of cameras out at the field because of our field at the high school. We have camera footage of what's believed to be his car coming and going sometime between 8:15 and 8:30 p.m."

Ponds turned himself into police on Tuesday night.

There was no foam or sprinkler system in the shed.

The district will now lease equipment on a month-by-month basis from area municipalities and are hoping to use insurance to rebuild a shed and purchase new equipment.

Ponds has since been released without bail and will appear in court again on March 11.

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