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Posted on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

Arson suspected in picnic table blaze outside Burns Park Elementary

By Danielle Arndt

A picnic table outside Burns Park Elementary School was burned early Saturday in a fire that is believed to have been started intentionally.


Children play outside on the playground at Burns Park Elementary in this 2012 photo.

Chris Asadian I file photo

Burns Park Principal Virginia Bell, who is retiring in July, sent an email to parents around 11:30 a.m. Monday after meeting with a city fire inspector and police officer.

"… Our picnic table in front of the school was destroyed by being burned," Bell wrote. "… The inspector confirmed arson. There was no other damage to school property, and police are investigating. Any leads can be forwarded to the Ann Arbor Police Department."

AAPD Lt. Renee Bush confirmed that police and Ann Arbor firefighters were called to the school for a report of a picnic table that burned between Friday night and Saturday morning.

She said the fire department is investigating if the fire was an arson. It is categorized as a "suspicious circumstance" by police until the fire department is done with its investigation, Bush said. Fire department officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

"Anything involving a fire is turned over to the Ann Arbor Fire Department," Bush said. "We provide support if they need that. It's up to them to investigate and for them to determine if it was done intentionally."

Bush said there is nothing in the police report from the incident to indicate the fire may have been part of a prank.

Ann Arbor Public Schools Communications Director Liz Margolis said school officials went out to the school over the weekend to look around and custodial staff was at Burns Park Monday morning cleaning up debris from the fire. She said there were no other incidents of property damage that occurred on district grounds over the weekend.

"Because the school (Burns Park) is right next to the public park, it is a different property than any of the others we own," Margolis said, explaining that property damage occasionally is an issue at the elementary school.

Cops and courts reporter Kyle Feldscher contributed to this report.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Wed, Jun 12, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

I hate to say it, but every year something goofy always happens at Burns Park. Remember the playground incident? Not surprised by this at all.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

Burns Park is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from student housing, in which bored and drunk undergrads are occupying for the summer. The picnic table incident is not terribly surprising.

Dirty Mouth

Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

Clearly, thugs are targeting our Elementary and Secondary Schools. Where is the Police?


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:55 a.m.

Great. 300 words for this. Now they'll be a resolution by council to ban all wood picnic tables in the city. You know it's coming.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 2:09 a.m.

Right after they finish making every road in the city one solid crosswalk.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:54 a.m.

Burns Park is getting more dangerous everyday!


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

A doll lynching and now arson of a piece of recreational infrastructure?


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 2:09 a.m.

Oh, the humanity!


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:05 a.m.

I thought the same thing. What's going on over at Burns Park these days? More vandalism all around.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:41 p.m.

So that is why there is so few wooden picnic tables around.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

Actually, I think that's true. They also do not hold up that well. Take a walk around Gallup Park to see the deterioration of the wooden tables and benches from weather, abuse, vandalism, weeds not cut back, etc. Other materials hold up much better.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:19 p.m.

Maybe the graffiti artists are escalating.

Linda Peck

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10 p.m.

I don't think this is particularly funny and I am not laughing at the comments above here. I am sorry to hear about the probable vandalism, but I would prefer to know than not know, so thanks Danielle Arndt for covering it. It could have meant a worse outcome for some children or adults.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

Oh, bawk-bawk-bawk.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:53 a.m.

A worst case outcome to children or adults? I'm really perplexed as in how? It occurred over night between Friday night and Saturday morning. It was put out. Adults can't come to grips with a picnic table being burned? Are "adults" really that sheltered that something like this simple event they can't mentally handle? As to children, if they're from that neighborhood they probably are aware of burned wood and probably didn't even notice. Oh gee poor's little ole me, someone burned a picnic table, can someone call my shrink and schedule both me and my child an appointment?!?

Ron Burgandy

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:34 p.m.

AAPS needs to issue a memo to all teachers reminding them to properly extinguish their joints and bongs before going back into the building to teach class.

C. Montgomery Burns

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

How dare those little scoundrels vandalize property adjacent to my park! Hmmmm Probably that Simpson boy. Release the hounds, I say!


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

are you quite certain that it wasn't Smithers trying to get your attention? Hmmmmmmmm?

Homeland Conspiracy

Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

Stewart G. Griffin

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

Well Lt. Columbo, do you really think it was arson?? I was leaning towards an electrical fire or perhaps spontaneous combustion, myself. You never know when one of those picnic tables may randomly ignite.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

hey stewie, I think he meant to say "lightening " strike.....ease up, hokay?

The Picker

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

Hey ! Lighten up!!!!!!!!!!!


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:43 p.m.

Lightning starts many forest fires


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:42 p.m.

Lightening did it !

Ann English

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

dconkey, Just when I was getting used to the idea of lightning hitting a house, you bring up something else that could be hit by lightning. Trees, people, houses, and now picnic tables. Lightning can kill trees (a red oak tree hit by lightning continues to stand, but dies; the red leaves turn brown) instead of setting them on fire, but the wood of a picnic table is dead, all right, before the picnic table is even made.

Stewart G. Griffin

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

Hey "donkey"....what exactly is a "lighting" strike? Is that when all of the lightbulbs decide to stop working and enact a work stoppage, picketing in front of the fixtures, demanding more time off, more kilowatts per hour, less jobs being taken by these new CFL lightbulbs who have lately been muscling in on their turf? Do you think some of these striking lightbulbs may have been the cause of the picnic table fire? Some sort of lighting union protest gone violent? I don't know......doesn't sound like too bright an idea on their part.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:57 p.m.

It could have been a lighting strike.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:37 p.m.

Over 300 words devoted to a burned picnic table. Would this even have been reported on this site if it'd happened in any other neighborhood?


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:54 p.m.

The Burns Park residents have weighed in.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:44 p.m.

I would hope so. You rather it be like Detroit and its treated like no big deal ?

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:39 p.m.



Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

Most likely some former or current AAPS students sowing their wild oats Burns Park is not the only school abutting a park, Allen school abuts Buhr Park.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:12 a.m.

Lawton as well.