Blaze could have had a devastating impact

Community fortunate that pair of suspicious fires didn't destroy more than just a playground

The carefree joys of summer just became a little less enjoyable for scores of Saanich youngsters and their parents.

An arsonist torched the playground in Copley Park in the early morning hours of Canada Day. It was the second time in just over 72 hours that a firebug has set their sights on the playground on the 600 block of Vanalman Road, about 150 metres along the Colquitz River Trail.

While Saanich Parks staff were able to get the playground in usable condition shortly after the initial fire June 27, the Canada Day fire reduced the playground to a heap of twisted metal, charred wood and burnt bark mulch. Officials estimate the damage between $35,000 and $40,000.

Losing a popular part of the neighbourhood is always difficult, but when that loss comes as a result of a senseless act of destruction it becomes even harder to deal with. And trying to explain that loss to a youngster can sometimes seem impossible.

That’s a problem Sandy Fallow is having to come to grips with. He had to wipe away the tears from the eyes of three-year-old daughter Ella who visited the playground almost every morning.

“Why would someone choose to get their kicks doing something like this?” he asked. It’s the same question police and fire officials are asking themselves.

While the destruction of the children’s playground deals a blow to neighbourhood youngsters and Saanich taxpayers, the result could have been far more devastating. The heat from the blaze melted a plastic garbage can five metres away and a sudden gust of wind could have sent a spark into a dry, wooded area nearby. And if that were the case, it could very easily have spread to nearby homes and potentially resulted in loss of life.

The residents of the neighbourhood will sleep better once the person responsible is apprehended. But until that occurs, we can all do our part by keeping an eye out for suspicious behaviour.

Anyone that may have information about these incidents is asked to contact the Saanich Police Department at 250-475-4321 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).