A fire that completely destroyed £6,000 playground equipment in Runcorn is believed to have been started deliberately.
The town’s firefighters were called to a report of a fire at Palacefields Park, near to Runcorn Ambulance Station, shortly before 3am on Thursday 11 July.
The playground equipment, an ant-hill climber, was well alight on arrival.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze with a hose reel jet and were in attendance for around half-an-hour.
The fire is believed to have been started deliberately.
Runcorn Fire Station Manager Stuart Devereux said: “This was a senseless act of arson which has left playground equipment completely destroyed and spoilt a popular play area for local children on the eve of the summer holidays.
“Such fires put the safety of residents and firefighters at risk and tie up resources unnecessarily, meaning that it will take longer for fire crews to respond to emergencies, such as house fires.
“The fire occurred in an open space in the early hours of the morning whilst residents slept nearby.
“Thankfully we weren’t called to another incident in the town whilst we were busy putting this fire out.
“I would like to say to those who deliberately start fires that it could be your family or friends that we are delayed in getting to and trying to save because we have to put out a fire that is completely avoidable.”
Palacefields Park is owned by Halton Borough Council.
The ant-hill climber cost around £6,000 and the clean-up operation following the fire cost approximately £1,000. Replacing the ant-hill climber would cost a similar amount.
All this money comes out of the public purse.
Cllr Ron Hignett, Halton Borough Council’s Executive Board Member for the Physical Environment, said: “It’s not just the cost of the vandalism and making the area safe – the damage caused means that children can no longer use the equipment.
“These kind of mindless actions help nobody.”
It took council workers several hours to gather up the burnt debris, remove the remaining steelwork and make the park safe following the fire.
A local resident said: “My children often played on that ant-hill climber. They loved it.
“Why someone would set playground equipment alight is beyond me.
“Where are the kids who live locally going to play now this summer?”
Station Manager Devereux added: “We work very closely with the police in Runcorn and other partner agencies to tackle deliberate fires and this will continue, but we also need residents to help where they can by coming forward with any information they have about those responsible for such fires.”
A police investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Anyone with any information about the fire should call Cheshire Constabulary on 101, quoting IML 452595, give the details via General Enquiries or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.