A blaze which wrecked part of Blackpool’s historic Stanley Park was just the latest in a string of fires at the beauty spot.
Part of the former sports pavilion was severely damaged by flames on Saturday afternoon.
Police and firefighter believe the fire was started deliberately.
And according to the Friends of Stanley Park it is not the first arson incident in recent weeks.
The issue of fires at the park was discussed at a meeting of the Friends Committee less than 24 hours before Saturday’s incident – described by volunteers as the most serious example yet of fires being deliberately set.
It’s mindless destruction
Elaine Smith, MBE, is chairman of the Friends of Stanley Park.
She today branded the firestarters ‘mindless’ and admitted it was ‘depressing’ to see one of Blackpool’s best-loved attractions being targeted.
She said: “There has been such a reaction to this.
“So many people have been in touch. It’s horrible.
“If you think about the number of people who use the park this is just a tiny minority, just a small number of idiots who want to ruin things.
“It is upsetting.
“But it certainly isn’t the first incident.
“We have had reports pretty much every morning of something having been set alight.”
Mrs Smith said volunteers and park workers had reported a number of smaller scale fires involving bins and other items of park furniture.
But the alleged arson attack on the pavilion is a worrying escalation, she said.
Mrs Smith said: “There are cameras in the park.
“But these incidents appear to be happening where people can’t be seen.
“There have been bins set alight, there has been fire damage to the skate park.
“But there hasn’t been anything on this scale.
“I don’t know what you can do.
“You can patrol the park but you can’t be everywhere all the time.
“You can’t predict where these incidents are going to be happening.
“You have to wonder how you can reach these people and let them know the impact of what they are doing.”
The Gazette has previously reported on an increase in vandalism at the park over the summer.
But Mrs Smith blasted the alleged arson attacks as ‘mindless destruction’
She said: “It’s not like graffiti, you can’t just scrub it off.
“It’s mindless destruction.
The pavilion is a listed building and will have to be repaired.
And with council budgets stretched to the limit, Mrs Smith is concerned of a knock on impact.
She said: “The park staff is reduced as it is but they are doing a fantastic job.
“But bins need to be replaced and this work will have to be done. It is a listed building it will have to be repaired.
“But that money will have to come from somewhere.
“That might mean less money to improve the facilities for young people.
“If it is being spent on repairs it isn’t there for projects which benefit everyone.”
Firefighters were called out to the park at 4pm on Saturday, after reports from the public.
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue said: “We had reports that kids had caused a fire against the pavilion, near to the netball courts.
“By the time we arrived, the fire had spread to the pavilion and caused some damage.
Coun Graham Cain, Cabinet Secretary for Blackpool Council, said: “It’s absolutely scandalous that anybody would think of carrying out an act like this.
“It isn’t just mindless vandalism but it more akin with arson, which is extremely serious and worrying.
“Not only is it extremely damaging but this will cost the taxpayer around £10,000 to repair – money which could have been used to help keep the park clean and in good condition.
“We think the act in the pavilion was carried out by two boys who got away on bikes and on a busy day like Saturday I am sure that somebody will have spotted them who might have more information which could lead to them being caught.
“If anybody does have information that could lead to their arrest then I’d encourage them to contact the police on 101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”