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No cause determined for playground fire at Newbury School

Playground equipment left charred after the rubber mulch caught fire.

HOWELL – An investigation into the cause of a fire on the playground at the Newbury School, Newbury Road, has yielded inconclusive results.

Shortly after 11 a.m. July 8, the Southard Fire Department and the Freewood Acres Fire Company were dispatched to the school for what was reported to be a small mulch fire.

Upon arrival, firefighters found a large fire consuming rubber mulch and the playground equipment. Firefighters fought the blaze for about an hour before it was extinguished.

At the Aug. 22 meeting of the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education, Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration Ronald Sanasac provided an update on the incident.

“The insurance company has reviewed and cleared the use of the rubber mulch. Based on the Newbury fire, they found (the rubber mulch) was not a contributing factor.”

Sanasac said research indicates rubber mulch is as safe or safer in every attribute than wood mulch.

“(The insurance company) finds no contribution (to the fire),” he said. “The fire bureau, the people who were in charge in doing the investigation, were inconclusive. That is why we went through the insurance company to make sure we were OK” to replace the rubber mulch.

Sanasac said he did not want to discount the fire bureau’s “non-finding” or the research of the Buildings and Grounds Department.

“Because they did not find a conclusive result, we checked with the insurance company before we went forward with replacing the rubber mulch. It has been a process and that is why it was delayed as well, but there is no research that shows any contribution to (the fire) from the rubber mulch,” Sanasac said.

Board member Ira Thor asked if the inconclusive results were in regard to what started the fire.

“Everybody has an opinion, I believe (the fire) was set, but they do not really ask me. Because it was inconclusive and they could not rule it out, we thought it was important to do our own research and check with the insurance company,” Sanasac said.

He said the estimated cost to replace the damaged playground equipment is $60,000.

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