‘Hurts to see:’ Fire at playground at Smith Park was 8th blaze set since fall 2018, parks official said

MILWAUKEE -- Another Milwaukee playground went up in flames Saturday night, Sept. 14, and authorities said it may have been intentional, just like the fire that damaged the playground at Butterfly Park on Sept. 1. Prosecutors said two 17-year-old boys were responsible for setting that blaze.

A fire severely damaged the playground at Smith Park near 34th and Sheridan in Milwaukee shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday.

"She said, 'The slide is gone,' and I'm just looking like, 'What do you mean the slide is gone?' said Tanqueria Jones. "And I got up and looked, and it was just gone!"

Fire severely damages playground near 34th and SheridanCellphone cameras captured the flames Saturday night. FOX6's cameras captured the damage left behind.

"We was just bringing my daughter here to play," said Jones. "Like, every day she comes. They want to be kids! Why you got to come and burn up a park?"

A Milwaukee County Parks employee said this was the eighth time since fall 2018 that a fire was set at Smith Park. Parks officials reported five arson incidents at the park in 2019, with two portable toilets and three pieces of play equipment damaged.

Fire at Smith Park near 34th and Sheridan

Fire at Smith Park near 34th and Sheridan

Fire at Smith Park near 34th and Sheridan

"It hurts just to see," said Jones. "I come up here every day, and there's a nice, decent amount of kids up here playing, and next thing you know, you won't be able to come up here to play because they're going to burn it down."

Jaqueh Howell and Trashun Campbell, each 17, were charged with felon arson of property other than building, as a party to a crime in connection with the Sept.1  Butterfly Park playground fire, which caused an estimated $30,000 damage. Prosecutors said one person was originally identified as the person who set the fire. When questioned, that person "identified five individuals as having been involved, including 'Jaqueh Howell' and 'Trashun.'"

Fire at playground at Butterfly Garden near 37th and Meinecke

Fire at playground at Butterfly Garden near 37th and Meinecke

Police interviewed Howell and he stated "that Campbell had asked Howell if he wanted to start a jacket on fire, and Howell agreed. Howell stated that Campbell lit the jacket on fire with a lighter near the bench, and Howell kicked the jacket by the playground near the base of the stairs. Howell saw the jacket smoking when he left the park, and stated he did not know the park equipment started on fire."

In an interview with police, Campbell "stated that he lit his jacket sleeve on fire with a lighter, and then left the burnt jacket on the slide. Campbell said that the fire 'got big for a while,' and recalled the jacket was smoking, but thought the fire was out," prosecutors said. Campbell wrote an apology letter, apologizing for burning the park down, prosecutors said.

"Even though it's a community park it belongs to the kids," said Jones. "With this gone, I don't know what she's going to do."

Fire at Smith Park near 34th and Sheridan

Fire at Smith Park near 34th and Sheridan

Fire at Smith Park near 34th and Sheridan

Fire at Smith Park near 34th and Sheridan

Some at Smith Park Monday said when an arrest is made in connection with Saturday night's fire, they were hopeful the person would be sentenced to community service -- forced to repair what they destroyed.

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