Sarasota playground intentionally set on fire, police say

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Sarasota’s Pioneer Park playground was set on fire around 9 p.m. Monday night. The blaze lit up the night as crews with Sarasota County Fire Rescue worked to put out the flames.

"It looked like marshmallows dripping last night," said Billi Jo Zobrist, who stopped by with her granddaughter to look at the melted plastic and charred metal. "Just imagine all the kids in the area that don’t get to play on this park anymore because of stupidity.”

The City of Sarasota estimates damage at more than $100,000. Firefighters classified the fire as "malicious mischief." 

Sarasota police are now working with the State Fire Marshall to figure out who set the playground on fire and why. 

"This hurts the community real bad," said Zorbist. 

Detectives combed the area around Cocoanut Avenue on Tuesday as they searched for evidence and witnesses.  

The sight stopped Ruth Firth in her tracks. 

"I don’t know what caused it. I heard different rumors, but I’m sure they’re just rumors for now," she said. 

One thing is certain.  The neighborhood and its children are the ones hurt by the fire. 

"It's just really sad because it’s a well-used park," added Firth. 

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sarasota Police Department at 941-954-7070 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-8477 or online at