The Main Stream

Jul 10, 2012 6:50 PM

Playground fire investigated as arson

CATALINA - Arson investigators say someone lit a playground set on fire in the town of Catalina. The incident was reported about 3 p.m. Monday just off of Oracle Road.

The park is next to Catalina Community Pool where Derek Lopez is a lifeguard. He said "it probably looked like a house was burning, that's how much smoke there was. The flames were going over, you could see the flames over the fence."

Lopez said he and his fellow lifeguards saw the flames and immediately told the 35 or so children in the pool to get out of the water. The staff then called 911 and managed to snap a few pictures, "it was alarming. I mean we're trained to handle everything and all of the sudden there's a fire."

George Kuck from Pima County Natural Resources said the playground set was installed in 2000 and was paid for through a federal grant of $35,000. "That's our only playground in the Catalina area, so for four months we're not going to have anything for the kids to play on," he said. Kuck estimates a new one will cost approximately $40,000.

The playground equipment catered to children between the ages of 5 and 12.

Crews from Golder Ranch Fire Department extinguished the flames in less than five minutes, said Captain Joshua Hurguy, a spokesman for the department. "Plastic, once it gets going, burns very quickly and it burns very hot. You know most parks, and this one included, have a mixture of rubber and wood chips around the bottom of it and once that gets burning it just complicates the matter even more," he said.

There is a $10,000 reward being offered for information leading to a conviction in the case. If you have any information can call the Arizona Arson Hotline at 1-800-35-ARSON (1-800-352-7766).

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