D.C. fire officials are investigating an arson that destroyed part of an elementary school playground in Petworth on Tuesday evening, causing about $25,000 in damage.
The incident marks the third elementary school playground fire within a 10-day span. The first two fires were in Fairfax County at Lees Corner Elementary School on Oct. 2 and Greenbriar West Elementary School on Monday evening.
Fire officials said there was no indication that the D.C. fire was linked to the incidents in Fairfax.
D.C. deputy fire chief Mark Wynn said the Petworth fire was “intentionally set off without a doubt.” Fairfax fire officials said they suspect the fires there also were arson, but they are still investigating.
On Tuesday just after 6:30 p.m., D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to a call at a playground on the 4300 block of 13th Street NW. The playground, owned by the Department of General Services, is behind the building where Bancroft Elementary School is temporarily located as its main facility undergoes renovation.
Responders put out the blaze before it could spread from the south end of the play structure. The fire left behind the charred remains of a circular climbing structure, with globs of yellow and blue melted plastic scattered around the area.
Bancroft Principal Arthur Mola sent out a letter to parents, assuring them nobody was harmed by the fire. He said the playground, which had been undergoing renovation during the past two weeks, would be closed off until further notice.
Bancroft is working with the Department of General Services and Blue Skye Development and Construction to plan repairs, though they have yet to establish a timeline.
At Greenbriar West Elementary in Fairfax County, Principal Lori Cleveland said she and the schoolchildren were disheartened to find play structures damaged beyond repair. It means that students at recess no longer have monkey bars to swing on or slides to glide down.
“It was destroyed. It was a total loss. Clearly, we’re very saddened by it and disappointed someone would start a fire on an elementary school playground,” Cleveland said. She added that students have relayed their sadness over the loss of the playground to her. “They want to help. They want to know when they’re going to get another playground.”
Cleveland said the playground would soon be demolished to make way for a new one. But while it remains, resourceful teachers have been using the playground’s charred remains — including a green slide sagging to the ground and its collapsed railings — to demonstrate to students the dangers of fire for Fire Prevention Week.
“We use it as a learning opportunity to show them what damage can be done with fire and how dangerous it is,” Cleveland said.
Fairfax County schools spokesman John Torre said new playground equipment would be installed “as soon as possible” but did not give a more specific timeline.