AUGUSTA — Police are trying to determine who might have set a fire that destroyed a small shack late Friday night at the city’s dog park.

The fire was reported at 11:38 p.m. Friday in one of the fenced areas on the west side of the Kennebec River where dogs are allowed to roam off their leashes. The dog park consists of two sections and is part of the larger Mill Park, off Canal Street.

On Saturday afternoon, nothing but rubble remained where the shed had been standing, and authorities had closed the section of the park where it was located.

Police think someone intentionally set the fire and are investigating it as an act of arson, said Sgt. Eric Lloyd of the Augusta Police Department, in a voicemail message Saturday. Police have submitted the case to the Office of State Fire Marshal.

“A call was made to the fire marshal’s office, as we do believe it was intentionally set,” Lloyd said. “However, they will be the investigating office if they so choose to take the case on Monday.”

Lloyd said any further questions would have to be answered by a state investigator or one of his superiors at the Augusta Police Department.

Before it burned, the shed had been a place for owners to take shelter from sun, rain or snow while their dogs were playing in the park, according to people there on Saturday afternoon.

The park, which opened in 2010, is divided into two fenced-in areas: a larger area that is designated for larger dogs, according to signs posted at the entrance, and a smaller area for smaller dogs.

The area for larger dogs was where the shack had stood and now has been closed off, with caution tape strung along the fence. On Saturday afternoon, both large and small canines — a pitbull, a collie and a Chihuahua-Jack Russell terrier mix — were mingling in the smaller area.

“I bet it was kids down here partying,” said Felecia Graham, who lives on the Augusta-Vassalboro line and was just leaving the park with her Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix named Gizmo. “I bring him here a lot. I brought him yesterday around two-ish and it was still standing.”

Graham hopes someone will clean up the rubble and re-open the larger section of the park, she said, as Gizmo likes to have more space to stretch his legs.

“It’s sad,” said another woman, Kellie Thompson, who had brought Jill, a Chihuahua-Jack Russell mix, to the park with her fiancé, Elijah Yeaton.

Thompson and Yeaton say they liked having separate areas for bigger and smaller dogs, as the former can sometimes be too rough when they’re trying to play with the latter.

“It affects us all,” Yeaton said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 

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