Church Hill playground fire under investigation

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email   
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HELP: You can help, see note at the bottom of the article

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -  An early morning fire destroyed the playground at George Mason Elementary School. City investigators call it a case of arson.

The fire broke out around 3:30 Wednesday morning on the school's playground at 28th and O Streets. Investigators say this fire was no accident and it's going to affect 400 summer school kids.

Twisted metal and melted plastic are melting hearts in Church Hill. To parents, George Mason Elementary School's playground doesn't look like much fun anymore. To fire investigators...

"This was just nasty. It was mean," said Richmond Fire Department Captain William Martin. The fire caused $70,000 in damage.

"When you see something like this it's going to hurt the whole neighborhood. There was really no inherent value. I can't believe someone got a lot of satisfaction out of this," said Captain Martin.

Reginald Malone used to be on the school board and helped George Mason get this equipment.

"How could you do such a thing? Not only to the community or the taxpayer but especially to the children," said Malone.

School officials say in this tough economy, a new playground won't be ready until at least the new school year, which will leave 400 summer school students without a place to play.

"It's terrible that somebody would do something like that to a place where kids play and have fun all summer," resident Kelly Norwall said.

Fire investigators say someone was spotted at the playground just before the flames. The witness thinks they saw a person with a flashlight.

"We don't know whether it was a flashlight. It could have been a lighter for all we know," said Martin.

Community members know they can't wait for someone to be charged with a felony.

"As soon as they can catch these folks the better. Cause I think the community would like to know that they've caught 'em," said Malone.

Investigators have no suspects or leads. If you saw anything suspicious last night in Church Hill call Crime Stoppers at 780-1000.

The Richmond Public Schools education foundation is raising money to help rebuild George Mason Elementary's playground.

If you'd like to help, send a check to the attention of the school board clerk to:

Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation
301 North Ninth Street, 17th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219
Att: School Board Clerk

Make sure you note on the check the donation is for George Mason's playground.

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