Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Students at one Minneapolis school won’t get to use their playground when they head back to class on Tuesday.
A fire destroyed the playground equipment at Hmong International Academy near Jordan Park.
The fire started just before 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Investigators are still trying to figure out how it started.
The destruction caused by fire often can’t be measured until the flames are out.
Manu Lewis knew there would be extensive damage when he recorded the thick smoke coming from the Hmong International Academy on Sunday afternoon.
“When we pulled up, before the truck got here, we could see the flames,” said Manu Lewis, who lives in north Minneapolis.
Hmong International Academy is the latest play area in north Minneapolis to go up in flames.
The school district has lost several playgrounds to fires over the last year.
“This is the second one I’ve heard of this summer,” said Katie Leuer, who lives near the school.
The same playground burned in February of 2012. Earlier this summer, fire also damaged the playground equipment at Lucy Craft Laney Community School.
“It’s really terrible, really sad, it’s nice for kids to play,” Leuer said.
Investigations are underway with the Minneapolis Fire Department and the school district, but neighbors are drawing their own conclusions.
“I know it come from kids not having enough to do,” Lewis said.
Community members have noticed a change in park visitors, it’s no longer just young kids using the playground equipment.
“Just not a very welcome place to be right now,” Leuer said.
The cost to fix the damage could be in the thousands, yet it may be the students who pay the biggest price.
“The kids can’t utilize it. It brings a tragic sense to the neighborhood,” Lewis said.
District leaders are doing everything they can to figure out who’s behind these fires.
They’re looking into whether someone is deliberately burning these playgrounds or if it’s kids who are accidentally starting fires while playing with matches or lighters.
An arson hotline has been set up at 612-673-3070 or 1-800-723-2020.