Firefighters were called to Charlies Park at 9.21pm on Friday, January 31, after reports the structure in Charlie’s Park, Jarrow, was ablaze.
The crew was at the scene for around 20 minutes, ensuring that the blaze was fully extinguished. But the damage to the Viking boat, which was fixed to the ground, had already been done.
A section of the boat has since been removed from the park.
Firefighters are yet to confirm whether or not the blaze was deliberate, but members of the community fear the worst.
Friends of West Park Jarrow posted on its Facebook page: “We are very sad to see that the Viking boat in Charlies Park was set on fire last night.
“What the little cherubs who set it on fire fail to see is that in 5-10 years time they will have kids of their own and those kids will have no nice park to play in, because their parents destroyed the park when they were kids.”
The ship is the centrepiece of the play park which sits between Jarrow Hall and St Paul’s Church, off Church Bank.
The play park opened in 2010 after a £130,000 project, developed by South Tyneside Council's Sports Development Team with joint funding from the Playbuilder scheme and then regional development agency One North East.
The area, which also features swings, a zip line and fitness trail, was designed along an Anglo-Saxon/Viking theme, in keeping with its location.
It has been a firm favourite of families for a decade, and news of the fire has caused an outpouring of upset and anger online.
One mother said: “This is so maddening my kids go here all the time. They will be disappointed like a whole load of other kids. Hope they are caught.”
Another woman posted: “What a absolutely disgrace! This park was a favourite of mine when I was young and I have so many happy memories of my kids playing here. Someone needs to be accountable for this.”