- Associated Press - Thursday, June 22, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The cleanup process of a burned Alaska playground has begun nearly two months after a blaze sent it to the ground.

Workers began clearing debris Tuesday from the April 24 fire at Twin Lakes Playground in Juneau.

Project Manager Alexandra Pierce said the cleanup will take one to two weeks.

The debris was giving off fumes for the first few days after the fire, and the City and Borough of Juneau’s engineering department has been closely monitoring the contaminants in the air.

“We’ve had an environmental consultant on site and monitoring the air quality and it’s perfectly safe for being around the area, just general public use,” Pierce said. “Just as an extra precaution with contractors, whose faces are down in the material as they’re cleaning it up and disturbing it, we’re asking that they wear protective gear.”

After debris is cleared, Pierce said the next step depends on the state of the soil and whether there are contaminants present. She doesn’t expect the area to be contaminated and says the city may plant grass in the area before rebuilding next spring.

The playground area is fenced off and will remain closed during cleanup, but much of the rest of the park is open, the Juneau Empire reported (https://bit.ly/2rGb08n ).

“We’re asking that people maybe use other parks while the cleanup is happening, just because it’s loud and noisy and there’s heavy equipment, trucks rolling in and out,” Pierce said. “The rest of the park is open to the public, but it’s probably not the best park experience at the moment.”

Capital City Fire/Rescue initially investigated the fire as having been intentionally set, Assistant Fire Chief Ed Quinto said.

The City and Borough of Juneau’s insurance is covering the cost of the cleanup process, just as it is also covering the basic construction costs. The city wants to make some improvements to the accessibility of the park, and the Juneau Community Foundation is accepting donations for those improvements.

Community members have donated more than $160,000 to the rebuild effort.

The City and Borough of Juneau is working with a committee of mostly people who were involved with the playground’s initial construction in 2007. That effort was largely volunteer-driven, and Pierce said the city wants to keep the public involved this time around, too.

“It was what made the park so special in the first place and what made people so attached to it,” Pierce said. “In that spirit, we’ve convened the original steering committee that was involved with putting the initial project together. We’re moving forward as a group.”

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