Fire destroys playground at Richmond elementary school - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side


Fire destroys playground at Richmond elementary school

Source: Peggy Butkovich Source: Peggy Butkovich
Elizabeth Redd Elementary School playground fire (Source: NBC12) Elizabeth Redd Elementary School playground fire (Source: NBC12)
Source: NBC12 Source: NBC12

It's a second Richmond school playground fire in as many months, and investigators believe someone set it on purpose.

Wednesday evening, massive flames and smoke billowed into the air from Redd Elementary School just after 6 p.m. It could be seen from miles away.

Investigators are questioning the parents of two teenagers seen at the school moments after the playground went up in flames.

"You just want to cry," said Tommy Kranz of Richmond Public Schools.

A fury of flames towered above Redd Elementary School on Richmond's Southside.

"You could see the smoke from the Northside, in fact," said Sekou Abdus-Sabur of Richmond Fire.

It rushed fire crews to the scene.

"The equipment is damaged. The flooring is destroyed," Abdus-Sabur added.

The estimated damage is $150,000.

"I stood by and watched the whole thing burn up," said Peggy Butkovich.

That's when she pulled out her cellphone and started recording.

"Once it hit the plastic, it just blew up. It was a huge, huge fire," Paul Butkovich added.

It's not the first time Richmond Fire crews have had to respond to scenes like this.

"In the last three weeks, this is the second playground that’s been hit. Mary Scott was hit earlier," Kranz added.

Last summer, Reid Elementary School's playground was also set on fire. The money to replace all of these playgrounds is coming out of a dwindling pot of funds set aside to improve city schools.

"Between the two playgrounds, I’m probably looking at almost 20 percent of the budget that’s spent on two playgrounds, and there’s 50 buildings that are all in desperate need," Kranz said.

As a criminal investigation ensues, a message for those behind the mischief.

"Teach the children, don’t play with matches. Don’t play with fire. This is not funny. This is not cool. This is actually a bad thing," Abdus-Sabur added.

"You’re damaging public property. There are serious consequences for the actions that are being taken. We need to stop it. This is senseless. We’re wasting dollars that don’t need to be wasted," Kranz said.

An adjacent trailer that serves as a classroom also has smoke damage. In just a few days, students will return from Spring Break to no playground. Kranz says the district won't be able to replace it until next school year, at the earliest.

Fires have also been set at playgrounds at Fairfield Court Elementary School, Overby-Sheppard Elementary SchoolWoodville Elementary School and George Mason Elementary School within the last 10 years.

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