The Washington Post

Fire strikes another Laurel playground

For the third time in nine days, a fire has been deliberately set at a playground in Laurel, authorities said. The most recent blaze was set Monday at Emancipation Community Park and caused damage estimated between $80,000 and $100,000, said Laurel spokesman Pete Piringer.

The second fire, which occurred Friday at another playground, caused relatively minor damage. After that fire, two juveniles were arrested, said officials in Laurel, a city of about 25,000 in northern Prince George’s County.

“We are certainly looking” at the possibility that the youths might have been involved in all three fires, Piringer said. But he said that as of Monday evening, authorities “haven’t made any connection” among the blazes.

Monday’s fire at Emancipation Park, which is at Eighth and West streets, involved wood, metal and plastic playground equipment, as did the others, Piringer said.

Details were not immediately available on how the fire was set, but the Laurel police department is looking into the blazes with county fire investigators.

The first playground to burn was in Discovery Community Park at Harrison Drive and Green Hill Avenue, where equipment went up in flames about 4:30 p.m. March 3. Damage was estimated in the $100,000 range. The playground was renovated in 2009 with swings and a large slide, according to the city’s parks and recreation department. It was on a rubber surface. The fire there generated billows of black smoke as the surface burned, a park neighbor said.

“I hope somebody gets caught rather quickly,” said another neighbor. “There are a lot of children in the neighborhood.”

The second fire was Friday evening at Gude Park on Mulberry Street. Two people fled as officials arrived, and police reported two arson arrests. Piringer said the two youths who were arrested were released to their parents.

Laurel covers about four square miles, and the fires were within about a mile of one another.

Laurel Mayor Craig Moe has pledged quick rebuilding of the first damaged playground, and authorities said reconstruction of Emancipation Park would probably be discussed at a meeting of officials Monday night.


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