Did Arsonists Torch This Playground?

New Lenox playground put in two years ago destroyed by fire

By Anthony Ponce and BJ Lutz
|  Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010  |  Updated 4:58 PM CDT
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New Lenox Playground Fire

Anthony Ponce

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Some neighborhood kids in New Lenox will likely be out of a place to play for at least part of the summer after $80,000 worth of  playground equipment was destroyed by fire.

"It's a shame," said neighbor Cindy Jankowski.  "It had a water theme, so there were big slides and they were waves and fishes and it was just really nice."

New Lenox Fire Protection District Jon Mead said crews were quickly able to put out the fire on the playground at Jackson Branch and Daniel Lewis Drive on Saturday night, but the plastic equipment was completely destroyed. 

"It was a pretty good flame show," Mead said.

Investigators are now trying to piece together where the fire started and what exactly caused it.  Mead said samples have been taken from the ground surrounding the playground equipment to test for accelerants. 

Weather conditions will also be checked, Mead said, to look at whether the fire was started by a lightning strike.

"Because it is wood chips that's in here, you know, they dry out over a period of time and it is possible that that could help accelerate the fire," he said.

Still, it's not the first time New Lenox officials have had to investigate damaged playground equipment.  Similar incidents occurred in recent years at other playgrounds at Haines School and Schoolhouse Manor Park, the Southtown Star reported.

Mead said the park district has insurance, but said it's a shame that the enjoyment of the park for everybody is gone for the next few months.

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