PLAYGROUND ARSON: Pre-Teens Were ‘Bored’

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.


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