By Vic Carter

LAUREL, Md. (WJZ) — Arsonist on the loose. Authorities in Laurel are ramping up their investigation into who is setting playgrounds on fire across the city.

Seven different fires have caused more than half a million dollars in damage.

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And now–as Vic Carter explains–there’s a reward to help catch the fire starter.

Police believe someone set seven fires at playgrounds and commercial buildings, including one at Emancipation Community Park and another that charred Discovery Community Park. Police believe those two are related.

Parents want to know why someone would do such a thing.

“Either scare people away or just for fun. I think they’re doing it for fun, otherwise I don’t understand,” said Geny Forester.

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A daycare provider, who takes her kids to play at the park, says it’s hard for them to understand the crime.

“They were upset that the park got burnt down and some of them were having like, you know, some nightmares about parks being burned down, ‘are they going to burn down my house?’ So that was a little sad,” said Nadej Rafael.

A dangerous fire at Laurel Fuel Oil and Heating is also linked to these arsons. Twenty firefighters managed to escape with just seconds to spare when the roof collapsed.

Now police are stepping up patrols and offering $10,000 to anyone with information leading to an arrest.

“We must stop this evil before tragedy strikes in unspeakable ways,” said Chief Mark Bashoor.

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The fires have caused $600,000 in damage, but no one has been hurt.

Vic Carter