When children who are part of the Head Start preschool program showed up Romain Playground on Monday morning they were forced to play inside. The nearly-new playground they once loved is now a heap of melted plastic.
Firefighters hosed down a large fire at Romain Playground as tall flames and black smoke were sent into the air. Crews were called to the scene Sunday afternoon at around 3pm to find the area completely engulfed.
Pete Martinez with the Fresno Fire Department said, "Plastics are pretty hazardous. We have to watch out for our firefighters to make sure they're not in that environment. They do burn at a pretty quick rate of speed once they start going. Melting liquid, essentially, they have to stay out of it."
Once the fire was knocked down there wasn't much left for kids to play on.
Fresno City Councilman Clint Olivier said, "It's clearly a total loss. I mean, they burned the shade structure, they burned the slides, they burned the plastic components and, of course the ground cover, too."
The playground was only built in 2012 as part of a $600,000 commitment from the City of Fresno, First 5 California and other organizations to renovate the aging recreational area. The Fresno Fire Department says it is still investigating the cause of the fire but it appears to be human set. Councilman Olivier says it's the clear the fire is arson.
Olivier said, "It was either set or it was a lightning strike and we didn't have lightning yesterday so someone had to set this. And that's heartbreaking. It makes me very angry."
Martinez said, "Without any witnesses or someone coming forward to let us know what happened, we have to go with 'undetermined.'"
Firefighters say the surrounding area has seen its share of arsons over the years. City officials say the parts to build a brand new playground have already been ordered. They hope to have it rebuilt within three months.
The fire caught the attention of many ABC30 insiders at Chukchansi Park in Downtown Fresno where the Grizzlies were in the middle of Game 5 in the Pacific Coast League Finals. Insiders began sharing pictures all over social media. We shared several below, including some from the fire department.
No other details are available on the fire at this time.
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