Fire destroyed a playground at the Charles Bowen Recreational Complex in Pine Hill over the weekend, causing $75,000 in damage to equipment and the adjacent concession stand.

Local fire and police departments responded to a 5:11 a.m. Saturday call from a resident reporting the flames. Two Pine Hill police officers secured the scene and 15 firefighters from three departments — Pine Hill, Gloucester Township, and Berlin Borough — fought the blaze for about three hours.

The Pine Hill Police Department and fire marshal are investigating the cause of the fire. They said it was possible it was set.

William Dukes, chief of the Pine Hill department, said the loss of the playground is devastating for the borough.

“It affected so many people in the community. Everybody has a passion for children, and this is directly affecting the children. It’s a pretty active ball field,” Dukes said of the adjacent recreation fields, where youth baseball, soccer, and football games are held. “While the bigger guys are playing ball, the little guys were using the play equipment.”

Pine Hill Fire Department Chief William Dukes holds up pieces of rubberized material on the playground, which created thick clouds of black smoke Saturday morning.
Carly Wanna
Pine Hill Fire Department Chief William Dukes holds up pieces of rubberized material on the playground, which created thick clouds of black smoke Saturday morning.

After a Pine Hill resident reported seeing smoke billowing over the concession stand, emergency response teams arrived on the scene within minutes to find flames engulfing the playground, not the snack stand.

Dukes said the Pine Hill Youth Association runs the snack stand, but the borough owns the property and the playground equipment. Dukes said there were no heating or electrical sources nearby that could have accidentally started the blaze.

The borough has contacted its insurance company and hopes to recover enough funds to restore the playground, Dukes added.

The playground was refurbished a few years ago with new equipment, Pine Hill police Lt. Christopher Witts said.

Dukes said the recreational complex, on South Club Road, was named for the late Charles Bowen, a firefighter who had been active with the Pine Hill Youth Association and lobbied for the creation of a ball field.

A neighboring playground was identical to the one destroyed at the Bowen Recreational Complex.
Carly Wanna
A neighboring playground was identical to the one destroyed at the Bowen Recreational Complex.

Officials asked the public to contact police or the fire marshal with any information about the fire, which they say was suspicious.