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Matthew A. Henson Elementary school playground fire under investigation

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Posted at 11:58 AM, Sep 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-20 06:51:08-04

Charred sliding boards and melted plastic greeted children heading to school at Matthew Henson Elementary Monday morning.  Baltimore Police say someone intentionally torched the playground.

ABC 2 News was there Saturday around 5PM as city firefighters worked to put out the flames.  It was thick, dark smoke that alerted most people nearby.

"A big fire, big smoke,” said Leonard Johnson.  “I just saw the smoke at first, I was walking past going to my house, I saw the big smoke, I walked past, I saw the fire."

It only took crews about 15-minutes to fight the fire, but the loss to the area will be felt for a while.

"I like to get on the monkey bars, and slide on the slide," said Kindergartner, Alexandria Johnson.

But now it’s all gone, families and kids robbed of the playground.

"Now they don't have nothing no more because somebody been destructive and malicious to do something like that knowing the kids have to have somewhere to play in the neighborhood,” Michelle Davis said.  “We don't have any rec centers in the neighborhood open to where they can go play."

The blaze destroyed the equipment, causing about $10,000 dollars’ worth of damage.  Investigators are calling it arson.  We're told an accelerant was used to feed the flames.

"It wasn’t an accident, someone intentionally burnt down the structure," Baltimore City Police Lt. Jarron Jackson said.

But this isn’t the first time this jungle gym has burned.  In June of 2013 vandals also set the equipment on fire, forcing the playground to be rebuilt.  Right now, it's unclear if the twisted and melted plastic play area will be overhauled a second time.

"The neighborhood kids, they don't have no resources, they don't have nothing to do, so they take it upon themselves to do reckless things in the neighborhood," Tyrone Baker said.

"What I know is right now those kids don't have a playground,” Lt. Jackson said.  “And that someone did this destructive act for no reason, they need to be held accountable."

We reached out to Baltimore City Schools, and a spokesperson says the playground is totaled and needs to be replaced.  The re-build can take up to six-months.

Baltimore Police don't have any leads about who started the fire.  If you saw something Saturday, or know anything at all, call city investigators.

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