Winfield residents are outraged after a playground in town burned to the ground for the second time. Fire investigators say the fire at Island Park is suspicious, but they have no suspects at this time.
"I hope they catch that feller. I hope they catch him. And see, the last time this happened, they only gave the guy like a fine and a slap on the wrist. I really hope they throw the book at the guy this time," said resident Eric Blakeley.
Residents of Winfield are calling it a crime against their children.
Twenty-five fire crews and nine apparatus from Winfield, Atlanta, Arkansas City, Burden and Udall had the fire under control nearly three hours later. Investigators have not released a cause to the fire.
Winfield fire crews arrived on scene shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday to see the Island Park playground fully engulfed in flames. Viewers called into the Eyewitness Newsroom saying they could see flames going dozens of feet into the air from two miles away.
The mood in town was very somber Friday. Everyone was upset, some people even giving in to tears when they saw the damage. And there was a lot of anger, too.
While the fire department has only declared this suspicious, residents are certain it was deliberate.
"It's a crime against the community. It's a crime against our children," said Sherry Bodkins.
They came in twos and threes, by foot and in cars, and they all had the same thought.
"It was a beautiful playground, it really was," mourned Eric Blakely, who was back Friday morning to see the damage by daylight after watching the fire burn Thursday night.
"It's just pretty sad," said Madison Platter, who'd brought her daughters to see the damage.
"It's angering. It's upsetting. It's sickening. It's heartbreaking, heartbreaking," said Bodkins.
Someone even put out sign at the edge of the bridge leading to the playground, begging the monsters many believe are behind the fire to go away.
Many who came out to see the damage had helped raise funds to rebuild the playground on Island Park after it burned down five years ago.
"I helped rebuild it after the first fire and it's pretty sad to see it go up in smoke again," said Matthew Bidwell.
That included some of the youngest members of the community, like Isaac Swanson who emptied his piggy bank to help out. He took pride in knowing his name was on one of the fence posts surrounding the playground.
"Yes, that got burned up," said Rachel Swanson, his mother, because Isaac was too broken up to talk about it. "It was right out front."
Friday was a rough start to a long awaited spring break for many area children, like brooklyn platter who had plans for the park.
"My sister's birthday was tomorrow," she said. She'd planned to celebrate at Island Park playground.
"At least we're going to rebuild," says Rachel Swanson, reassuring herself as much as her son.
But while all promise they're ready to help out again, many say they'd like to see some changes, too.
"Like a motion camera or something," said James Swanson. "Anything to keep honest people honest."
Others wanted harsher penalties for anyone caught starting a fire like this.
"It ain't going to stop them unless they, you know, unless the criminal justice system does something about it," said Blakeley.
A lot of the folks around Winfield are certain the fire was deliberate because they heard investigators found evidence of gasoline at the playground. But fire investigators say the rubber matting used under the playground equipment is also made from petroleum and leaves the same residue as gasoline. So they say it's simply too early to judge.
Fire crews tell Eyewitness News the fire in 2008 burned longer because of rubber chips on the playground. The chips were not used in the rebuild allowing firefighters to have better control on Thursday night's fire. But officials said the composite construction materials of the playground equipment contributed to the rapid spread.