Arson cited as cause of Alexandar Carr Playground fire say officals
DERRY — Fire officials say someone intentionally set hay bales on fire Friday at Alexander Carr Playground, causing a blaze that came dangerously close to a nearby lodge before it was extinguished.
“Somebody lit up the hay bales and the wind took it,” said Derry Battalion Chief Michael Gagnon as he stood near the clubhouse. “We got it fully extinguished and applied foam,” Gagnon said.
No injuries were reported in the fire that began at around 1 p.m.
The white foam coated a large section of the hay bales, which are used as a safety barrier during the sledding season. The foam outlined the path of the fire that touched an outside pillar of the lodge's deck before it was extinguished by fire crews, Gagnon said.
Three engines responded to the scene. Along with foam, fire crews poured approximately 3,000 gallons of water on the blaze before it was extinguished, Gagnon said.
A witness to the incident, Paula Charity, said she was walking her dog at about 1 p.m. when she saw a man as she approached the playground. Charity lives nearby in the Fairways Apartments and frequently goes on walks in the area with her dog, “SirEcho. “
After approaching the man, Charity said she saw some ice on the ground and asked him if it was slippery. The man answered that it was and then paused before saying that “some kids set the hay bales on fire,’” Charity said he told her.
She noticed the hay bales were beginning to smoke and catch fire. She said the man then told her he was going to call the fire department and walked away. After he left, the fire grew stronger and began to approach the nearby clubhouse.
Charity said she decided to use her cell phone to report the fire at 1:14 p.m. As she waited, she said the man never returned and the fire intensified under the windy conditions. It came within feet of the clubhouse, she said.
“I was waiting for the building to go up and fortunately it didn’t,” she said.
Charity said she believes the man had something to do with starting the fire as she didn’t see any children around the area when she spoke to him. Also, he never returned to the playground.
Charity said the man she spoke to is about 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a stocky build. She added that he had some kind of a speech impediment.
The fire is under investigation by the Derry Fire Department, Gagnon said.