College Gate Elementary playground fire intentionally set, district says

A firefighter stands next to a charred light post at College Gate Elementary. Officials say a fire was intentionally started at the playground the night of July 25, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Anchorage School District)

A fire at an East Anchorage elementary school damaged part of the playground Thursday night.

Employees are at College Gate Elementary this morning cleaning up the aftermath.

An Anchorage Police Department spokesman says they received a report at 10:15 p.m. Thursday that there was a fire at the school. Officers questioned and arrested a juvenile suspect, who was transported to McLaughlin Youth Center.

There were no injuries.

Anchorage School District maintenance manager Bryan Stenehjem says Anchorage Fire Department crews were dispatched shortly after last night’s report.

“They did put it out with foam and water,” Stenehjem said. “We estimate there was about $100,000 worth of damage.”

Stenehjem says the playground sustained damage to an X-Wave play structure — similar to a seesaw, but for multiple passengers — as well as a swinging Ring Trek — similar to monkey bars. Additionally, about 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of rubber mulch and a light post hit by the blaze will need to be replaced.

Stenehjem says the replacement for the mulch is about eight to 12 weeks out.

“I’m anticipating realistically that nothing further will happen as far as installation of new equipment until next summer,” Stenehjem said.

Police say charges for the suspect have been forwarded to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

This story has been updated with information on the fire suspect.

Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at

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