'You will get caught': 2 playground fires spotlight school vandalism
Two playgrounds in the Anchorage School District were set on fire over the weekend. While one suffered significant damage, the second was saved.
"You will get caught," ASD senior director of maintenance and operations Darin Hargraves said. "We've got cameras on all of our playgrounds."
The first fire happened at Turnagain Elementary. The Anchorage Fire Department received a call around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, the Anchorage Police Department said.
Several pieces of equipment were damaged and rubber mulch will need to be replaced. Part of a slide and stairs melted, wood was also burned.
ASD originally estimated the damages ranged in the tens of thousands of dollars.
"The cost of the Turnagain Elementary playground equipment replacement is unknown at this time but could be upwards of $100K," ASD communications practitioner Morgan DuClos wrote in an email.
After further evaluation, Hargraves feels the damage is less expensive, saying he believes the amount is over $50,000. The district plans to have the play structure replaced and ready before school resumes in the fall.
According to the Anchorage Police Department, a juvenile male was arrested in connection to starting the fire. His charges have been forward to the Division of Juvenile Justice, police stated.
"What people, especially families, have to remember is this stays with you," Hargraves said. "This individual will now have a criminal record on his juvenile report. It affects the family and the community."
Hargraves also pointed out how fast the staff and community reacted. The youth who allegedly started the fire was identified within four to five hours, Hargraves said, which is due largely to ASD security staff, APD, AFD and the community.
Typically, the district is able to pinpoint vandals within a day of an incident, he said.
On Sunday, another playground fire was attempted at Chester Valley Elementary. Some teachers were at the school to plan for the upcoming week when they noticed something awry. After calling the fire department, Hargraves said AFD confirmed it was an attempt to start a playground fire.
ASD carries a property insurance policy with a $100,000 deductible. Anything under that is out-of-pocket expenses for the district, Hargraves said, and when things like vandalism happen it tracks costs and confers with attorneys.
Any juveniles found responsible and their families could be on the hook for the full amount or a portion of the repairs.
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