Orange Mound Playground Set On Fire

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(Memphis) People are calling it a major loss for Orange Mound.

Someone set the local playground on fire, making it dangerous for children to play there.

It happened Sunday around 10 p.m. behind the Orange Mound Community Service Center on Park Avenue.

“It was tragic. It was flames,” said 16-year-old Henry Telford, who lives across the street.

Some caught the flames on camera. Although Telford only captured it with his eyes, he says it's something he won't forget.

“I was like 'Man! This is unbelievable,'” Telford said. “I never seen nothing like that in my life.”

The neighborhood playground turned into a fireball, a tornado of flames.

“The fire people came and put it out,” he said. “I saw some kids running around but I didn't know who it was. I guess they had started it.”

If teenagers started it Sunday night, police say they don't have them in custody.

Whoever did the crime stole the centerpiece of this South Memphis neighborhood for children.

The playground sits behind a community center where senior citizens get together during the day, while children play outside.

“The children have nowhere else to go,” said Melissa Cooper, a senior citizen. “Not in this area. This was it. This was their playground.”

When the sun sets, people here say older teenagers hang around the playground, which makes Duane Lyle wonder if the arson was gang-related.

“Because now whoever's territory this is, now they don't have that place to sit and have their meetings or whatever.”

As for the children, it may be awhile before the playground is brought back to life.

The city estimates the cost to replace it between $80,000 and $100,000.

“They are limited in funds so I don`t know what's going to happen,” said Cooper. “But it's a tragedy.”

A tragedy that children will continually be reminded of everyday.

"You were taking your little nephew and niece, and they saw this and they started crying?” asked reporter Sabrina Hall.

“Started crying,” said Telford. “They said, ‘Why would they burn the park?’”

City officials say Memphis has about 100 city playgrounds, and Memphis loses at least one a year to vandalism.

The city can’t afford replace all of them.

If you know who may have done this, call CrimeStoppers at 528-CASH