Laurel playground fire: Emancipation Park damaged in fire

A fire broke out at Emancipation Park in Laurel. (Photo: Brad Bell)

A fire caused at least $80,000 in damage to a playground in Laurel Monday, marking the third playground fire in Laurel in recent days.

The playground that caught fire was the Emancipation Park at 8th and West streets. The fire was put out, and no one was hurt. Authorities say the fire caused between $80,000 and $100,000 in damage.

"I've never seen anything like this ever," said Laurel resident Eileen Collins.

She adds what's going on in her town is scary, and her son, Caleb, agrees.

"I mean, who would enjoy that? I mean, really, come on now. I don't think that's right at all," Caleb said.

Delores Stratford lives nearby and says news of the fire will upset her granddaughter.

"All I was talking about to her was when the weather breaks we're going to the playground, we're going to the playground," Stratford said. "...but now we don't have a playground here to go to."

Witnesses reported seeing a tall man with dreadlocks running from the scene.

Laurel Mayor Craig Moe says the culprit must be caught and has offered a reward of up to $5,000.

"We want them to enjoy the parks that we have, we don't want them lighting equipment on fire," Moe said."And if we catch you, it's not gonna be good news."

This is the third time since last Sunday, police believe, playground equipment has purposefully been set on fire in Laurel.

On Saturday night, police arrested two juveniles in connection with a fire at Gude Park. The first fire happened at Discovery Community Park, causing $100,000 in damage.

City of Laurel Spokesman Pete Piringer said, "There are some similarities. But again, whether the same people are involved, we just don't know at this point."

Laurel residents say this has got to stop. They worry next time it won't just be playground equipment, but people, that are hurt.