Prince George's County Fire officials are investigating nine separate cases of suspected arson since the start of the new year, all in the Laurel area.
Prince George's County fire officials believe recent fires at a playground and a vacant business are connected to seven other incidents of arson in the Laurel area.
Playground equipment in the 14100 block of Bowsprit Lane was set on fire around 3:35 p.m. Friday, Prince George's County Fire Spokesman Mark Brady said.
"It fits the mold of what we've been looking at over the past couple of months of fires in Laurel," Mark Brady with Prince George's Fire told News4.
Less than 12 hours later, a vacant restaurant suffered the same fate. A fire was set in the exterior closet of the former Bay N' Surf Restaurant in the 14400 block of Baltimore Avenue. The restaurant closed back in February 2007after a fire caused significant damage.
The news of the new arsons comes just as officials get ready to reopen Discovery Community Park, the location of the first playground fire.
Nothing could be salvaged from the March 3 fire, which caused $100,000 in damage.
Since then, investigators have found similarities in the causes of the Discovery Community Park fire and a March 11 playground fire at the Emancipation Community Park on Eighth Street.
A third playground fire at Granville Gude Park was also deemed to be connected. (A small fire earlier that month at Granville Gude is not considered to be connected to the suspicious fires.)
The remaining incidents include several at local businesses: a Jan. 10 fire at a Bottom Dollar Store on Route 197, a March 6 fire at Laurel Fuel Heating and Cooling, a March 20 fire in the 14000 block of Laurel Bowie Road and a March 23 fire at the Empire Buffet restaurant.
The damage to the Laurel park was minimal. Its base was wood chips, unlike the other playgrounds constructed with PVC piping and petroleum products.
The nine fires have caused more than $600,000 in damage.
No arrests have been made.
The city is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call the Arson Tip Line at 301-772-7766.