School Playground Damaged By July Fire Still Off Limits For Kids

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Monday, August 13, 2012

We have an update on a story we told you about just before the fourth of July. A few fireworks were to blame for a fire that did about $60,000 worth of damage to a playground at Woodman Elementary.

The school district has already gutted the playground and a new set is on the way, but the playground will be off limits for the first few weeks of school and it's the only one that some students can use.

The kindergarten teachers at Woodman Elementary are putting the final touches on their classrooms before school starts Wednesday.

"About 125 will be here so we have a big group of kindergartners,” Kindergarten teacher Daniel Bryant said.

Bryant tells us keeping up with kindergartners can be chaotic, so it helps to have their own playground just outside their classroom doors. At least, it used to.

"I was worried, I was a little bit worried. I was like, 'Oh what are we going to do for a playground.' You know, what about our kids?" Bryant said.

The playground site is empty now. Just a month ago, you could still see the extensive damage caused by the fire.

Earlier in the summer, fire investigators told us that one of the reasons the fire was able to spread so quickly and do so much damage is the rubber mulch that covers the playground floor. Once it catches fire, it burns for a long time. But the principal tells us that even when they rebuild the playground, they have no choice but to put a similar rubber material back in.

"This area is for our students who have disabilities and may be in wheelchairs and may use canes,” Principal Jana Epperly said.

Epperly says it's important that all of their playgrounds have a soft surface for kids to land on. In most cases that's sand, but for the school's only wheel chair accessible playground, a rubber surface is necessary.

"Of course the old pellets, all of that that was involved in the fire, that has been removed. And a newer material, newer than what was there originally is going to be put in. So I think it will be better,” Epperly said.

The new play set should be installed in about three weeks.

Even after this summer's fire, Principal Epperly says all of their playgrounds will be open for kids in the community to use any time they want.

“We welcome people using our playgrounds. Of course we try our very best to teach our students about fire safety and we would be hopeful that no one would be playing with fire or fireworks at any of our playgrounds. This is a good lesson that it doesn't work out well in the end,” Epperly said.

When the fire happened last month, fire investigators told us they found several used fireworks near the playground. But the school's security cameras didn't catch anything that could help them find whoever started the fire.

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