Fire burns park playground

Officials estimate at least $5,000 in damages
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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Police are investigating a fire that caused more than $5,000 in damages to a public playground. At about 3 a.m. Monday Auburn Police dispatchers received a call that the playground located at Auburn Recreationl Park was on fire. The call came a few hours after police received an earlier report of a group fight at the park. Capt. John Ruffcorn said at about 10:37 p.m. Sunday a “local resident” called police dispatch to report that 10 juveniles were fighting at Recreation Park. “Ten juveniles underage started fighting,” Ruffcorn said. “When we arrived, everybody had fled. The only one left was Mr. Pujol.” Patrick Johnathan Pujol, 18, of Auburn, was arrested on scene, Ruffcorn said, and booked into Placer County Jail on a charge of disorderly conduct. He was released on a promise to appear, according to jail records Monday. Ruffcorn said the cause of the fire is under investigation and police do not yet know if the cause and earlier fight are connected. Ruffcorn estimated that the damage caused by the early Monday morning fire was about $5,000. Auburn Recreation District Administrator Kahl Muscott said that the district doesn’t yet know the full cost but said the price of one slide can range between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on its size. He said staff plans to clean up the burned area as soon as possible and hopefully open up half of the remaining playground in a few days. Muscott added that the playground is insured. Auburn Fire Capt. Bryan Gougé was investigating the scene Monday afternoon. Gougé said the playground was smoldering by the time crews arrived and firefighters were on scene for about an hour. Gougé said no one was at the park when crews arrived. On Monday, counselor Karyn Ben-David said she and kids attending the district’s day camp were surprised to see blackened playground equipment. Ben-David said she immediately thought of a past spree in Sacramento where other playgrounds were burned. “I was so shocked that it came to Auburn,” Ben-David said. “I’ve lived here 20 years and it feels like the big city is coming to us.” Ben-David said day campers were concerned about the fire and were asking who did it and how. Jackie Armand, 7, was at the park Monday as part of the district’s Discovery Club Day Camp. “I liked the mini-slide that completely burned down,” Jackie said. “I liked to surf down it.” Muscott said this is the first time in his 10-year history with the district that a playground has been burned in one of ARD’s parks. He said he hopes the fire doesn’t inspire copycats. “People have to understand they’re damaging their own community,” Muscott said. “It’s the same thing as destroying your house. I don’t get it. Why would someone do that?” Reach Jenifer Gee at