The arson investigation continues in Jasper. More tip calls are coming in and the current $5,000 reward for information will likely go up as police try and catch the culprits who set the APEX Playground on fire. Both police and fire investigators combed the playground Monday looking for clues. At this point, all investigators will say is they're looking for at least two suspects and some type of accelerant was used.
The damage exceeds $150,000.Several blue-colored slides and stools are gone. They melted away. Metal bars are burned and blackened. The specialized rubber floor is destroyed. The $350,000 playground at Memorial Park was open to all but it was specially designed for children with physical disabilities. It's the only one of its kind in the county.
Jasper's Police Chief, Danny Patton, says whoever set the fire will likely be charged with arson, criminal mischief, destruction of city property, trespassing and perhaps other charges. He's asking anyone with information to come forward. Your tip could lead to a $5,000 reward or you can choose to remain anonymous.
"We're still in the process of reviewing any video that we may have because there were video cameras outside. We will follow up every lead because this is something that's very concerning to the citizens and the police department," says Patton.
ABC 33/40 found out Monday the property is insured and it should cover the cost to rebuild. But if not, the community has already stepped in to help. Jennifer Smith and Jaime Ford are two residents helping to spearhead the effort. Within the last 24 hours, they've received dozens of phone calls, text messages, emails and Facebook posts from people who want to donate and organize fundraisers. Some ideas include a 5K run, car washes, golf tournaments even lemonade stands. Both women are amazed at the outpour of support.
"People are really dumb-founded and really disheartened that somebody would do this but on the flip side this community is ready to rebuild and they want to see this back they want to see it better. People are asking where they can send their donations," says Ford.
To donate: write a check out to the City of Jasper. Write 'APEX Playground' in the memo section. Send the check to: PO Box 1589, Jasper, AL, 35502.
Anyone with fundraising ideas can email Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.