Playground equipment destroyed by fire
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Sep 04, 2012 | 6402 views | 4 4 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Playground equipment burned
Flames roll off a rock climbing wall in the North School playground that burned on Monday, Sept. 3.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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As first-graders ran onto the North Elementary School playground during their recess break Tuesday, Sept. 4, they quickly surrounded the melted and burned remains of what was once a popular rock climbing wall on the west side of campus.

The looks on their faces told the tale of the aftermath of a suspicious fire at the 2875 Holly Drive playground reported at 11:16 p.m. Monday.

“Who did this?” a first-grade girl asked Principal Frederick Medina, as she pointed at the melted plastic.

“Bad people,” Medina replied.

She turned back to the burned equipment with a sad look on her face and said, “That was my favorite. It was fun playing on it.”

According to Tracy Fire Division Chief Dave Bramell, the cause of the fire is undetermined, but firefighters believe it is suspicious in nature.

“Due to the location, where it was, isolated to an area on a specific piece of playground equipment … time at night makes it a little suspicious,” he said.

The rock climbing wall was purchased eight years ago and used by students in first through third grades on a daily basis, Medina explained.

“I can’t believe somebody would do this,” Medina said. “This place gets heavy-duty use.”

The climbing wall cost North School around $2,500 or $3,000, Medina said. He hoped the school would be able to salvage the structure’s support bars and replace the melted, charred plastic pieces for a minimal loss.

Casey Goodall, assistant superintendent for business services at Tracy Unified School District, said the replacement cost will have to be paid for by the school, because the loss would not be covered by the district’s insurance.

He said insurance doesn’t kick in until losses reach $50,000 or higher.

Goodall said the maintenance and purchasing supervisors were at the North School on Tuesday afternoon to assess the damage.

With budgetary constraints, school officials wondered how they would be able to replace the damaged equipment.

“The school belongs to the community,” Medina said. “We can’t afford to replace it all at one time. We’ll get some quotes and see what it will cost. It might be a several-year project.”

The Monday night blaze was only one of numerous fire-related incidents at the school over the summer months, school officials said.

Someone had been pulling the fire alarm boxes at the school during the night for several months, Medina said.

To combat the problem, he said school officials had disconnected some of the exterior fire alarms — which are activated by someone pulling on them — because each of the buildings is already equipped with interior alarm systems that make the older pulls superfluous.

Medina said he was concerned the people responsible for the false alarms might have stepped up their mischievous activity to possible arson.

Bramell said there was one particular pull box at the school that was accessible from outside the school fencing and had been pulled numerous times in the past several months.

“All it takes is for somebody to pull it, and it will elicit a (fire department) response,” Bramell said. “Every time a unit responds to a false alarm — mischievous false alarm — it’s taking that resource out of the system.”

Because of the previous false alarms and Monday’s fire, Bramell said fire officials have a heightened awareness of activity at North School. He said if the fire was deliberately set, the concern would be that someone would do it again on a bigger scale.

Fire officials are asking anyone with information about the fire to call 831-6700.

• Contact Denise E. Rizzo at 830-4225 or

Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 05, 2012
That is crazy California insurance even working against the education system. Go figure.

Anyway. The way I see it is, there is about $500k worth of damage to report to the insurance company. The hazmat should also be called because they were probably doing meth and other drugs that were concocted in a bathtub.

September 04, 2012
Very sad for the students at North School. Rather than replace equipment, I'd like to see a reward fund created so that the vandals are caught and punished. This would also put the responsibility of replacement cost on the parents or vandals themselves.
September 04, 2012
Sounds like there have been some shenanigans there for a few weeks before this. Sounds like teenagers possibly? I mean I can't really picture 18 year olds running around pulling fire alarms. So hey parents where were your kids at 11pm Monday night? Mine were in bed:) They had school the next morning.

So sad. I agree mommy of three. I hope someone can donate the money to get their playground back in order!
September 04, 2012
Just awful.... People are seriously pathetic! I really hope there is someone out there who could donate money or something to this school. This school already has pretty much close to nothing and now this is taken from the kids. Just sad.

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