Man charged in playground fire

Chaplain Bob Miller of the Ocala Farm Ministry talks about the suspected arson of the playground at the Ocala Farm Ministry on Northwest 110th Avenue in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, June 14, 2021. The playground was torched on Monday morning and was built as a Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Project. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted June 14, 2021 | By Carlos Medina, Ocala Gazette

Chaplain Bob Miller of the Ocala Farm Ministry talks about the suspected arson of the playground at 489 NW 110th Ave. on Monday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

It was a peculiar Monday morning for Chaplain Bob Miller after an unconscious man turned up in an empty water trough shortly after a fire engulfed a playground at the Ocala Farm Ministry.

Law enforcement officials believe the two were related and charged the man with felony criminal mischief for the fire, according to Marion County Sheriff’s Office reports.

The fire broke out just after 10 a.m. at 489 NW 110th Ave. As Marion County Fire Rescue extinguished the flames, Miller found the unconscious man.

“Thank goodness I walked out there,” Miller said. “It was blazing hot.”

The trough was dragged out onto the ministry’s soccer field catching Miller’s attention. Miller said a length of galvanized pipe, rope, carabiners and a children’s book from the ministry’s lending library were near the trough.

Paramedics gave the man – later identified as Richard Burton, 39 – the overdose-reversing drug naloxone and took him to AdventHealth Ocala. By the time they arrived at the hospital, the man was awake and talking. He said he arrived at the ministry’s property at 7 a.m. He had a fishing pole and keys with him, but said he had nothing to do with the fire, reports state.

A lighter was found in his pants pockets. Investigators later found a set of keys and a fishing pole, along with a piece of charred wood near the fire scene, reports state.

Fortunately, Miller said the fire did not spread to storage buildings nearby.

“God works in mysterious ways. I’ve been wanting to build a pole barn out there for a weight room. So, who knows this might spur that,” Miller said.

Miller said the playground was installed about two years ago and replaced one from an Eagle Scout project in 2017.

Burton was booked into the Marion County Jail on one count of criminal mischief with property damage of $1,000 or more. He was being held at the jail in lieu of a $5,000 bond.


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