A MUCH-USED £50,000 playpark could be lost to the community for good after being destoyed by arsonists.
The play fort in St Michael's park, which runs parallel to St Michael's Road in Paignton, may not be replaced because there is no money in the council's coffers.
The play park facility, which was designed for younger children, was built only last summer thanks to a grant from the National Lottery.
The fort, with slides and climbing frames, was badly damaged in a blaze started around 10am on Monday.
Residents called Paignton firefighters out. A spokesman for the fire service said one pump was called to the scene.
He said: "An accelerant must have been used to start the fire because when we turned up the flames were really high, especially as it was wet and it is built of hard plastic and metal.
"It is such a shame for the community."
One mother of two, who saw the flames and called the emergency services out, said: "I noticed black smoke coming from the play park. I called the firefighters. I couldn't believe it was burnt down like that. I am angry and feel very upset for all the children who use this facility. I am saddened to think there are people out there who have no respect for others and their community.
"Sadly this fire could be expected because something similar happened last year. It was only a matter of time. "
Only last Bonfire Night a bench which had just been installed in the park was smashed up and burnt by youths.
Ward councillor Bobbie Davies said it was really sad for the community to lose one of the largest elements of the play park.
She said: "I feel really sad. The community worked so hard to have this play park. There is not much for young people already. Now there is even less. People are trying to build a sense of community. It is very sad."
Louise Gilson, chairman of the Paignton community partnership, said the partnership had just spent £500 to fix the replaced wooden bench and table into concrete in the ground.
She said: "I'm really gutted to hear about this fire. It is very disappointing and sad. I don't know if it will be replaced."
The ruined play fort, with melted plastic boards and twisted metal bars, was taped off by police.
A police spokesman said they were investigating the arson.
He said: "There's no clear motive for this pointless crime. Given the fact the weather was so poor this must have been a deliberate act and we are hopeful somebody may have seen something suspicious."
The fire was so intense it melted down a BT box attached at the top of a nearby telegraph pole, leaving six homes without phone or internet.
BT confirmed they had been alerted to the incident and said the box would have to be replaced.
A Torbay Council spokesperson said: "Following an incident of arson, the play equipment at St Michael's Park has been damaged beyond repair. Torbay Council is working closely with TOR2 to remove the play equipment and make the area safe. Torbay Council officers will undertake consultation, in due course, to review the future of the play equipment in this area."
Anyone with information should contact the police on 101 or Crime stoppers on quoting FP123403.