Winfield Outraged By Latest Park Fire

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email
Residents of the south-central Kansas town are angry another likely arson has destroyed a playground.

Courtesy KSOK Radio

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Friday, March 15, 2013

The people of Winfield say they are "fighting mad" after a community treasure burned to the ground Thursday night.

Firefighters found the town's Island Park playground ablaze about 10 p.m. It is the second time in four years the playground has burned and arson is once again suspected.

"I just couldn't believe when I heard it last night; that it was gone again," Winfield resident Suzanne Ham said Friday afternoon.

For the second time in four years, hundreds of hours of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars donated by the Winfield community have gone up in flames. It has everybody in the Cowley County town irate.

"To come down here and destroy the park and something for children," Ham said. "I don't know why they have to do that."

Fire investigators say an accidental cause is highly unlikely, so they are investigating the fire as suspicious.

"We do have a few witnesses," said Winfield Fire Department investigator Patrick Ramirez. "We're trying to pan through the ones that might be credible and actually help get us through it."

An October 2008 fire that destroyed the playground was arson. Zach Buhlke, 17, pled guilty to that crime.

Ham said legal penalties for minors are not harsh enough.

"Because they were minors, they got a smack on the hand, parents got fined and stuff like that," she said. "They didn't make them go down there and sweat and work and get in that smoke."

Ham said the city may need to look at installing security cameras and locking park entrances at night.

Anybody with information about Thursday's fire is asked to call Cowley County Crimestoppers at 620-221-7777 or the Winfield Police Department at 620-221-5555.

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