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PLAYGROUND ARSON: Pre-Teens Were ‘Bored’

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Two girls have been charged with arson for allegedly starting a fire at the playground of a Des Moines school.

Around 11:00 a.m. Friday, firefighters were called to the city’s south-side on reports of a playground on fire at Park Avenue Elementary.

When crews got to the school, they saw a group of girls running from the scene. Friday is the first day of spring break for Des Moines students, so class was not in session.

Police say surveillance video from the school helped them identify the two girls. One is 11-years-old and the other is 12-years-old.

The girls told investigators they started the fire because they were “bored.”

"It sounds like they dug into the mulch, or the rubber mulch pile, and started a small fire.  The rubber with the adhesive that they used helped accelerate the fire and with this wind today," Captain Steve Brown Des Moines Fire Department said.

Fire investigators don't believe the girls meant to do this much damage.  That doesn't make it any easier for parents in the neighborhood.

"It makes me really sad for the kids around the neighborhood.  It's starting to get nice out.  Kids can finally go out and play then somebody decides to go and burn down a playground and now kids don't get to play on it,” neighbor Nichole Stumpf said. “It’s just really saddening to me."

Investigators say the fire caused about $100,000 in damage to the playground that just opened in October.

The two girls accused of starting the fire are charged with arson. They were both released to their parents.


  • Rebecca Hergert

    It’s warming up & I’m sure crime is about to go up!!
    It’s Spring Break & St. Patricks Day Weekend & People are just everywhere. Jogging on busy roads, where they shouldn’t be. Not paying attention to traffic. People are driving like crazy out there today!!

  • RG

    Those girls need to apologize to the whole school and then need to do some kind of service for the school that would benefit the students. Maybe that would teach them a lesson and set a good example to the students at Park Avenue Elementary to show them that if you destroy someone else’s property it is important to feel remorse and apologize and to understand that they will have to pay a consequence.

    • Linda R. Blakely

      They need a year of community service, and they also need to pay back every penny (restitution). I hope their parents are really good at fundraising because they, too, need to be involved with this situation. The city or school budget will be responsible for rebuilding the playground, which is just ridiculous. I wish we had laws that prevented youth from walking away from crime like this barely affected.

      Put their butts in boot camp…period!

    • narred

      They need to spend some time in a juvenile detention facility and get some therapy. Also, the parents need to be held accountable too…

      • Jimmie Carton

        Therapy? Thats the problem with people today they want to put kids in therapy and give them pills cuz “they aint right upstairs” Let kids be kids and leave therapy to child molesters.

  • Sicily Canny

    These two girls did this because they were “bored”? Think their parents should have to pay the school for the damage and send those girls to juvenile hall to teach them a lesson. Arson is NEVER a good idea!

  • CS

    It’s arson. Saying they’re sorry and a little community service doesn’t cut it. They need to serve time like the criminals they are. Check the sentence for an adult. It’s a good thing it didn’t sound fun to burn down the home of an elderly or disabled person and kill them. These girls are evil and need to pay! Hope their parents have a hundred grand!

  • BaaBwaWawa

    Let’s see how bored the parents are making up to the community and also paying for the equipment replacement. Call it “tuition” in parenting they should have “paid” long ago.

  • C.B.

    I think some are being a tad harsh. I remember when I was 13 starting a fire in a plastic bucket with my sister in our backyard because we wanted a camp out. Luckily for us our backyard was 3 acres and not made of rubber. I agree with community service. From the article it didn’t sound malicious. More a lack of judgement.

  • Jimmie Carton

    Really, Arson? What kid hasnt played with fire at least once in their chilhood? Bad judgement is all it was it wasnt intentional. I think theres child molesters we should be burning tax payers money on not little girls that learned a valuable lesson. Way to go DMPD.

  • GOP lady

    I’m glad our son Jimmy was not caught on the swings when that inferno broke out.Were these girls black?

  • Richard Scott

    Race is not the issue here – – behavior and choices are. I wish gender had not been mentioned either. We are too quick to use gender and race as a excuse for undesirable actions. Too often dicipline is left to teachers, police, and daycare workers – Mom and Dad are too busy and too tired to ‘raise their children’ – they leave it to games, videos, and TV. My parents always had a “to do list” for people who got bored, and dicipline that reminded you to keep out of trouble!!!

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