Laurel playground arson causes $100,000 in damage

The fire at Laurel's Discovery Park caused about $100,000 in damage. Photo: Pete Piringer/Laurel Police

Police believe someone intentionally set fire to $100,000 worth of playground equipment at one of Laurel's most popular parks.

The fire started a little before 4 p.m. Sunday at Discovery Community Park. The city is offering a $2,000 award for information that helps police catch whoever is responsible.

There are townhomes on a hill overlooking the park, and a lot of homes on Harrison Drive across from it. Laurel police and city officials hope someone saw something that can help them solve the case.

Neighbors say it didn't take the fire long to go from minor to major.

"Probably less than a minute," said Eduardo Argueta, who lives within sight of the park. "The whole thing came up - big fire - and then I just called 911."

Video taken by nearby resident James Lishear shows huge plumes of black smoke as the playground equipment and the rubber surface it was on burned.

"I have seen a tire fire before, [but this] was as black a fire as I think I've ever seen," said Charlotte Duval, who has lived in the neighborhood for over 50 years. "You couldn't see through it."

A city official says residents volunteered time and money two decades ago to get nice playground equipment at the park. A few years ago, they banded together again to get upgraded equipment.

"People tried so hard to get the park here for the kids," said Laurel High School student Jaris Foreman, who brings his brother to the park and used to play on the equipment when he was younger.

Argueta is disappointed he'll no longer be able to take his grandchildren to the park.

"I guess now they've got to find something else, got to go to a different park now," he said.

Laurel Spokesman Pete Piringer says the playground equipment was insured, and the city will try to replace it as quickly as possible.

The hope is to have the equipment back up by the summer.

A reward is being offered. Anyone with information is asked to contact Laurel detectives.