Juvenile arrested for costly fire that destroyed Richmond school playground

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RICHMOND, Va. – A juvenile male was arrested and charged after a fire destroyed the playground at Elizabeth Redd elementary school off Jahnke Road.

School officials estimated the damages will cost 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 at 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. That adds up to an estimated million dollars in damages.

In five years, 15 Richmond playgrounds have burned and caused an estimated million dollars in damages.

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," a fire official said.

Paul Butkovich, who called 911 to report Wednesday’s fire, said he 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.”

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