3 playgrounds set on fire in Laurel

City and PG County launching arson investigation

LAUREL, Md. -  

Discovery Park was the first to burn last Sunday.

It is by far the worst of the three as the fire buckled the whole playground, even melting the slide into the ground.

Virginia Hatfield's grandson liked to play in this park.

It was recently remodeled and had a set for younger and older children.

One of the more popular parks in the city, its destruction quickly made news for the children and parents who used it.

[You showed him the pictures?]  "Oh yeah, I cut them out and he's taken that home to show his brothers and sisters that go to school."  [And he was upset about it?] "Oh yes.  They all thought it was so disgusting," said Hatfield.

But Discovery Park was just the first black mark for the parks system in Laurel.

Another minor fire was started in a nearby park that caused minor damage.

Two kids under the age of 16 were arrested for that but are not thought to be connected to the Discovery Park burning or the most recent case across town.

Now surrounded by police tape and part of an active arson investigation, the playground at Emancipation Community Park was set on fire late Monday afternoon.

"There are a lot of similarities between the other two at Discovery and Emancipation.  Open, active investigation.  We initially had a two thousand dollar reward for Discovery Park.  That has been doubled, in fact more than doubled to a five thousand dollar reward for information," said Laurel Spokesperson Pete Piringer.

While city officials won't come out and say it, the first and last fires seem to be connected.

Prince George's County fire investigators are teaming up with Laurel city police on an arson investigation.

In the meantime, they are asking for your help.

"The mayor has asked everybody to pay a little more attention and we ask anyone, if you see something, say something," said Piringer.

The city of Laurel says it is moving quickly to replace these playgrounds and already received support from volunteers and donations; a measure went before the city council Monday night.

 The Laurel mayor also plans on having a special town hall meeting with the children to explain where they can spend their time while both parks are being fixed.

In the meantime, if you have any information that can help investigators arrest who is responsible, call the tip line at 301-77-ARSON.

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