RICHMOND, Va. – In five years, 15 Richmond playgrounds have burned and caused an estimated million dollars in damages.
The most recent was a raging fire at the Elizabeth Redd Elementary playground, on April 12.
Yellow plastic blobs mark the spots Paul Butkovich first spotted. He called 911 and then watched as the flames quickly spread.
“As I’m talking to her I said…’you better hurry them up because it just started engulfing the whole thing.’”
Butkovich stepped back and recorded this video.
“I’m just glad I could see it and call somebody right away before it caused some more damage,” he said.
The estimated damage is already bad enough. School officials said the estimated damages are around $150,000. The playground will be torn down Friday, and won’t be rebuilt until the beginning of the next school year at the earliest, officials said.
It's not the first time the playgrounds of Richmond Public Schools – one of the most cash-strapped districts around – have caught fire.
Eight have been bad enough to make CBS 6 broadcasts, since 2012. But a school spokesperson said that at least 15 playgrounds have burned down in that timeframe.
The Redd playground and several others have rubber mats as a base.
Fire officials said it takes more than a discarded match to catch this material on fire -- and that usually -- it’s done intentionally.
“You wouldn't set it off too easy; you'd really have to attempt to burn this.”
Butkovich spotted two teens nearby before and after the fire started.
If this was done on purpose, he's upset that someone would ruin the fun this playground provided so many families.
“It was good for the whole city, not just this neighborhood here,” he said. “It's a waste it's a shame.”