Fire Destroys Danville Playground, Witnesses Blame Lack of Adult Supervision

Danville, VA - A weekend fire has left some kids in Danville without a playground.

When students at G.L.H. Johnson Elementary School return Tuesday, they will find their jungle gym is gone.

Shanette James was in the backyard at her home, just across the street from the GLH Johnson Elementary School playground, when she saw flames shooting into the sky.

"Balls of smoke were up in the air and the whole street was cloudy. It was cloudy out here," James said.
James saw dozens of children of all different ages playing there without supervision just before the fire started. She says neighbors in the area who saw the scene before and after have begun speculating on the cause.
"When I was asking around, everybody had the same thing to say that it was a little small boy and he was playing with matches, " James said.
Officials have not released any information to support the claim. Officials are still investigating, but Battalion Chief Brian Shields says the unusual nature of the incident is raising suspicions.
"This fire is at this time determined suspicious. Based on the type of material it was: the hard plastics: it would be very hard just for it to start automatically, " Shields said.
James has three children who attend Johnson Elementary. They used to play on the jungle gym frequently. She hopes once the outdoor set is replaced, it will be protected.
"I hope they get it fixed, and if so, I hope they get it gated or something so it's only access to the school and that's it, " she said.
Officials estimate the damage to that equipment to be at least $120,000.

The heat from the fire also caused minor damage to a free-standing classroom a few feet away.

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