NOVATO, Calif. (KRON) — An arsonist is suspected of intentionally igniting a fire on a playground that was in the process of being built for children with special needs, according to the Novato Police Department.

The fire ignited around 11:37 p.m. Thursday at Pioneer Park on Simmons Lane in Novato. Police officers found parts of a playground structure and construction materials burning. Flames caused “significant damage” to the playground, city officials said.

“The fire was quickly extinguished before more damage could be done,” NPD wrote.

The Novato Police Department Investigations Unit is working closely with the Novato Fire District to determine the cause of the fire and locate the person or persons responsible for this act. “Although the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, it’s believed it was intentionally set as it is highly unusual for a fire of this type to start without an ignition source,” police wrote.

The damage to the site includes impacts to the city’s highly-anticipated renovation of the Pioneer Park playground. Construction began last month and the playground was slated to reopen to the community in November.

The new, accessible play structure was designed to provide access to children with mobility limitations.

The playground improvement project initially began in 2019 after the city received a grant through the California Park and Recreation Society, PlayCore, and GameTime. After delays caused by the pandemic, city staff and the families in the adaptive needs community were thrilled to see this project come to life this fall.

The fire’s impacts to the construction timeline and playground re-opening are still being evaluated, according to city officials.

Artist’s rendering of the Pioneer Park Playground Improvement Project (Image courtesy City of Novato)

The Novato Police Department is asking for the community’s help to identify the person or persons responsible for this fire. If you have any additional information related to this fire, suspicious activity in the park, or video surveillance, you are encouraged to call the Novato Police Department at 415-897-4361.