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Donation offers pour in to rebuild Aberdeen playground damaged by suspected fire; city offers $500 reward

Donation offers pour in to rebuild Aberdeen playground damaged by suspected fire; city offers $500 reward
More than $80,000 worth of playground equipment was destroyed during a suspected arson fire at Victory Street Park in Aberdeen Thursday. (Courtesy of Aberdeen Police Department)

A police spokesperson says they have been "innundted" with donation offers after Playground equipment in the Victory Street Park in east Aberdeen was heavily damaged by fire Thursday afternoon in an incident investigators say is arson.

The City of Aberdeen is offering a $500 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators, according to a news release issued by the Aberdeen Police Department late Thursday afternoon.

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On Friday morning, Aberdeen Police Department spokesperson Detective Sgt. Will Reiber said there have been numerous requests from people wishing to help in replacing the damaged equipment.

"The City of Aberdeen has been inundated with requests from citizens to donate money to the restoration effort to rebuild the Victory Park playground," Reiber said in a statement. "Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation can do so by making a check payable to the City of Aberdeen, earmarked for the Victory Park Playground Restoration Effort."

Four suspects, whom police said witnesses described as juveniles, were seen running away from the park shortly before the fire started late Thursday morning, according to a police news release and a report from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

The Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the blaze, which was reported around noon. City police responded to the park, which is at Victory Street and Chesapeake Court, regarding a report of a fire at the playground.

Officers saw "multiple" pieces of playground equipment "fully engulfed in flames," according to the police news release.

Firefighters from the Aberdeen Fire Department extinguished the flames in about 10 minutes, according to a notice of investigation from the Fire Marshal's Office.

No one was injured.

Photos provided by the police department showed a partially-burned sliding board on the ground after it separated from its metal stand, a melted plastic canopy above the sliding board platform, scorch marks on support poles and other pieces of plastic equipment melted beyond recognition.

The cost of the damage is estimated at more than $80,000, according to the police. The damage estimates were based on the $76,000 the playground equipment installation cost in 2002 and $8,000 in rubberized mulch pellets installed this year.

Mayor Patrick McGrady called the fire "a terrible event" in a message posted on his Facebook page.

"No matter the cause, we must stand strong and rebuild," McGrady wrote. "As a community, let's take pride in our neighborhoods and show our kids and grandkids that together we can do big things."

The mayor urged residents to perform small acts of kindness for each other and to show children "there is a better way."

He also noted the city will hold a Keep Aberdeen Beautiful cleanup day at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, at Festival Park.

"When we all work on the small things, we can do the big things much more easily," McGrady stated. "Join me in prayer for the Lord's grace and strength against adversity. And let's get to work."

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