A raging fire that destroyed an accessible playground in Tecumseh and sent clouds of thick black smoke billowing into the air Tuesday was caused by a teenager with a can of gas, according to the town's mayor.
The play structure at Lacasse Park went up in flames around 6 p.m., said Gary McNamara, who saw the smoke fill the air from town hall.
"This beautiful, boundless piece of equipment that we had was destroyed," he said. "A 13-year-old was involved and … poured gasoline in and around the centre portion of the playground equipment and ignited it."
The cost to replace the playground is estimated at up to $600,000, the mayor added.
Provincial police have charged the teen with arson in following the fire.
The boy apparently had "second thoughts" and tried to douse the flames as the rubber matting that provides padding around the equipment started to smolder, but parents who had pulled their kids off the playground managed to grab the teen before it was too late.
"It was just a matter of a few minutes and that whole mat ... was completely engulfed," said McNamara.
The playground was the most popular piece of equipment in Tecumseh's park system, according to the mayor, who added the town plans to replace it but that could take months.
"It's a piece of equipment that can be enjoyed by able-bodied as well as disabled children," he said. "It's just a very, very unfortunate situation."