November 26, 2014

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11-year-old charged with setting Washington School playground fire

An intentionally set fire engulfs the playground at Washington Elementary School Sunday. PHOTO COURTESY OF LORAIN POLICE

An intentionally set fire engulfs the playground at Washington Elementary School Sunday. PHOTO COURTESY OF LORAIN POLICE

LORAIN — A fire which lasted for around 15 minutes on Sunday and burned through a playground structure was allegedly started by an 11-year-old boy who quickly confessed to causing the incident.

Around 3:15 p.m., police saw smoke at the playground of Washington Elementary School near the intersection of Washington Avenue and West 20th Street in Lorain. The source of the smoke was a fire which had engulfed a playground set near the school, according to the Lorain Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Fenn.

The Fire Department was able to extinguish the fire within minutes but because it had been burning for more than 10 minutes before their arrival, Fenn said the playground set was destroyed. According to Fenn, nothing else was damaged in the fire, except for the playground set and some of the surrounding area.

Destroyed equipment is seen Monday at Washington School in Lorain. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Destroyed equipment is seen Monday at Washington School in Lorain. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Witnesses told police that they saw a boy start the fire by spraying lighter fluid on the playground set and lighting it. The boy then ran to his house across the street, according to police.

When police met with the boy and his grandmother, the 11-year-old admitted through tears that he had started the fire, according to the report. He was charged and taken to Lorain County Juvenile Detention Home. The boy was charged with arson.

Fenn added that while the Fire Department has seen cases of arson at school playgrounds in Lorain before, this does not seem to be connected to any other similar incidents.

The boy’s grandmother and guardian also said that her grandson has never done anything like this before.

Tom Tucker, superintendent for Lorain Schools, said that he does not know the cost of the damage yet, but the last time a similar fire was started on a Lorain school playground, the damage was around $120,000.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.


  • Larry Crnobrnja

    I don’t recall playgrounds burning down when I was a kid. Of course they were made of steel. And just maybe people had more self respect back then.

    • Joe Smith

      Yep! Steel, remember the slide getting so hot you could fry an egg….or a leg on it for that matter….ahhhh the good old days

      • Sue Lawson

        Plus, sliding down on wax paper made it slicker.

    • Sue Lawson

      At 11, burning something was the furthest thing from my mind.

    • Phil Blank

      If they made them out of steel today: #1 Cost too much and #2 they would be cut-up for scrap metal and sold.

  • tickmeoff

    What is the fascination with burning playground equipment? They gave Brandon probation for the Admiral King elementary fire, maybe that’s the problem, no real punishment if you do get caught!

    • Denise Caruloff

      take it all down…all parks…these idiot punks have no respect for anything now days…if I had ever done anything remotely close to that when I was a kid, my a$$ would still be to sore to sit on. I heard the call come across the scanner..and thought wth!

  • Pablo Jones

    The fire destroyed the whole playground in 5 minutes? Did the playground have wood mulch or rubber pellets? It seems whenever playgrounds burn to the ground they had rubber pellets. Use wood mulch and keep your playground equipment safe.

    • Amy Legg

      It was rubber. The smoke was black as night. I live 2 blocks away and could see and smell the rubber burning. It is a horrible mess. It warped the fence surrounding it too.

  • Amy Legg

    It was Washington Elementary School, not General Johnnie Wilson! Get the facts straight. Last time I checked all the middle school has is a basketball court. My son attends that school and was severely heartbroken by the news. We saw the smoke from the fire on our street and we are a few blocks away. Really sad.

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    An 11 year old?! Jesus, Mary and Joseph…

  • Monique Guerrero

    People didn’t have more respect back then, it’s about the same. People making poor decisions at any age is not bound to what generation the “bad” person is. Also, at 11, the brain has 14 more years to develop. So, give him a break. If there are stories of reformed gang members and addicts, then I’m sure this 11-year old has a pretty good chance.

    People without criminal records can be bad too. Even worse. I implore everyone use a little objectivity and empathy. It will bring down your blood pressure and make life for you, and everyone else, much better.

    • Joe Smith

      You would have to be a pretty stupid kid to NOT know that setting a playground on fire was wrong at 7 years old more or less 11 and people absolutely used to have more respect in past days, you were not even around back then to even have a real opinion on that. 14 more years? You really think you have to be 25 to know anything?

    • Larry Crnobrnja

      Perhaps your position is based on your upbringing as is mine? I would like to publicly thank my mother and father for raising me with enough sense NOT to do stupid stuff like this.

    • Bob Sweatt

      Sweetheart. All these Breaks and Time-outs, is exactly why this kid did what he did. There is not punishment anymore. This kind of stuff will keep happening until there are people who will take this kids and straight them out.

      I didn’t do anything like this when I was 11 due to the fact that I was scared of getting my butt beat.

    • Amy Legg

      Empathy? This child is old enough to know better than to set fire to something! My 4 year old has been taught at home and at school about fires! She would not do something like this. As a matter of fact, Washington just had a fire safety presentation! I would assume this kid goes to Washington! This kid obviously needs some help. The grandmother, God bless her heart has taken on a responsibility for this child and that usually means the parents couldn’t be responsible. It is the responsibility of the guardian(parent, grandparent, or other) to teach right from wrong. And Yes, there was much more respect for everything in past generations. We got punishment(not a vacation) in school if we did half of what these kids do today, we got punishment at home for half of what these kids did. We did not mouth off to adults, we did not destroy property on purpose, we did not hit adults. Wake up! I am ashamed of the generation I am part of for starting this whole trend of NO punishment.

  • Rita Torres

    Are they going to over-react and take down the basketball hoops like they did at Admiral King Elementary? Or will they realize the actual problem this time?

    Bored kids with no outlets and poor supervision + cheap flammable rubber playground mulch = trouble.

    • oldruss

      The basketball hoops were a nuisance, and were being misused by older teens and adults. Playground equipment at the schools from swings to basketball hoops should be used by the STUDENTS who attend that school. If the city wants to provide playground equipment for the general public, put it in city parks, where dusk to dawn curfews can be enforced by the police.

      • Rita Torres

        My STUDENTS used the playground equipment every day. My STUDENTS were punished because of something someone else did that was unrelated to the basketball hoops.

        Arson is not a site specific crime, it is a crime of chance and circumstance and, in this case, a copycat crime.

        Long winded stuff below, not really relevent so skip if you want:

        I lived across the street from Admiral King while the fires happened there earlier this year. having three children I was very aware of crime in the area. I saw two houses busted for dealing heroin (one right next door to me, I saw huge fights with 10-15 people three different times, with kids and adults, one time a car actually crashed in my yard. One thing I didn’t see? Crime on that playground during the day and early evening, I can’t say what happened there late at night as I didn’t keep 24 hour watch but I assume the same thing happened there at night that happens anywhere at night, clusters of crime pop up until it is busted and broken up. If there was drug dealing or illegal activities happening there late at night, that IS up to the police to patrol. In fact, police very very often sat in the parking lot of the school, for 30 minutes at a time and drive through often.

        I just find the idea of children being denied access to parks and exercise equipment on the chance of crime to be silly. There has always been crime, there will always be crime and the best way we have to fight it is raising our future generations right. And that involves productive social and play time.

        • Joe Smith

          Yep, not fair to punish the many innocent for the acts of a few guilty. Thats why I am against gun control, same issue

          • oldruss

            With all due respect, Joe, the issues aren’t the same. The basketball controversy last summer involved the misuse of the basketball hoops at certain school playgrounds. The nuisances created by those using the hoops affected neighbors. This was not a matter of the students of those schools using the equipment during school hours, or in the afternoon after classes. Older teens and young adults descended upon the school playgrounds in the evening hours. Aside from fencing off the playgrounds, which may or may not have deterred the offensive behavior, taking down the hoops gave the neighbors some semblance of peace and quiet enjoyment of their homes.

          • Joe Smith

            I still don’t see how it changes the fact that the many innocent were punished over the acts of a few guilty. As a matter of fact it backs my comment up. But thanks and have a safe week.

  • castofcharacters

    There is a clear lack of parenting. The parents should be made responsible for the replacement of the playground. Teach your children to respect others and their property. When there is a consequence there will be better parenting.

    • Amy Legg

      I believe this too. The guardians should pay.
      Why should the kids do without and the school system have to pay for the replacement? This was a place for the kids to get exercise during the school day, provided by the schools. If children were more supervised AND taught respect for others, this would not have happened. I feel bad for grandparents raising their grandchildren, however, if you cannot handle them maybe they should be raised by another. Get this kid help! He obviously needs something!

    • Larry Crnobrnja

      BINGO! Clearly the result of children having children. How will we ever get our hands around this problem?