THE park keeper's lodge at West Bank Park has been left gutted by a severe fire in an arson attack.

The fire service has confirmed the fire was started deliberately. A police investigation is underway.

This was the scene on Tuesday night:

Investigating officers from the fire service have been unable to determine the exact cause of the fire as the building is too dangerous to enter, a spokesperson said, but they have recorded it as being started deliberately.

Firefighters were called to the building on the New Lane side of the park at around 6pm on Tuesday after a security guard saw the fire as he was closing the gates to the park.

Police could not confirm reports that fireworks were being set off in the park before the fire. They have been carrying out door-to-door inquiries in the area today. As of this afternoon, no arrests had been made.

The inside of the lodge has been completely gutted and the building may have to be demolished. 

Firefighters brought the fire under control but hot spots reignited on Wednesday morning, and crews returned to the scene shortly after 8am.

The building is at the heart of these plans by a local group to create a heritage centre and cafe for the park.

Laura Outhart, secretary of the West Bank Park Heritage Project, said: "Thank you to all the people who have shown their support so far and to the fire crew for all their work.  

"It’s very sad day because the lodge building was a link with the world famous Backhouse Nurseries and is a familiar landmark in our park, but we are here for the long haul.  This just not just about bricks and mortar.  This project is about bringing people together, building pride in our community, celebrating our incredible history and protecting the future of our park.  We now need this more than ever, and want to work with everyone in the community to get back on track."

A security guard working for Eboracum Security Ltd spotted the blaze in the former park keepers' lodge as he patrolled the park at about 6pm yesterday evening and immediately alerted the emergency services.

Two fire crews from Acomb, one from York and the aerial ladder and its crew from Huntington tackled the blaze while police closed adjacent New Lane.

The fire, which enveloped the whole building, could be seen for some distance around in the mainly residential area.

The Backhouse Project, a group of local people have worked for more than a year raising money and preparing a planning application to turn the building into a heritage centre and cafe commemorating the work of botanist James Backhouse.

Helen Hoult, chair of the Friends of West Bank Park, said: "It's devastating. The project team will have been working on this for the last four years. They have worked so hard and for it to literally go up in flames is devastating. 

"But we will rise from the ashes and we want the community to support it.

"The feeling last night was one of resilience and that this won't beat us. They have been making great steps, we will find another way." 

The fire was contained by 7.15pm and as firefighters continued to make the area safe, Friends of West Bank Park, also a voluntary group, vowed to do their best and pick up the pieces, before it reignited on Wednesday.

Night patrols on behalf of the Friends of West Bank Park have only recently resumed in the park, which was left unlocked for several months.

The security guard was making sure the park was secure when he spotted the blaze.

A structural engineer was also at the scene to assess the safety of the building, which has been disused for some time.

- Anyone who has any information which could assist the investigation is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 and select option 1 to speak to the Force Control Room. Please quote reference 12160203040.