A fire that burned a bench at Cedar Hill Park—a beloved community-built playground—might have been started by cigarettes discarded in mulch, authorities said.
The fire was reported at about 10:22 p.m. Tuesday. Firefighters were able to extinguish it within 10 minutes or less.
The quick response likely prevented additional damage to the playground on a windy night, Oak Ridge Fire Department Battalion Chief David Harrington said.
Firefighters don’t think the fire was intentional, Harrington said.
He said the bench was made of a plastic composite-like material.
The mulch at the playground is new, and there were cigarette butts around the bench, Harrington said. Firefighters doused the bench and the mulch below it and then dug out the mulch and removed it. They also checked for hot spots before leaving.
Harrington said the wind probably helped feed the fire, which was reported to be growing when it was called in to 911.
The Cedar Hill Park playground was built in a five-day construction project in May 2011 with the help of hundreds of volunteers. It’s made of recycled plastic and composite lumber, and it replaced another community-built playground that was built by 1,200 volunteers in five days in 1988. The original 23-year-old wooden playground was replaced because it was splintering and cracking, and there had been substantial changes to safety and accessibility standards.
Cigarettes discarded in mulch can cause significant damage. Authorities said a fire at Applebee’s restaurant in Oak Ridge in October 2010 could have been caused by a cigarette dropped in mulch at the back of the restaurant. That fire burned part of the building and caused smoke damage.
Applebee’s tore down the old restaurant and rebuilt it, and the diner re-opened in March 2011, more than five months after the fire.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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