QUICK-THINKING staff from a Wrexham playgroup saved children from a potentially lethal fire after vandals pushed a burning piece of plastic through the letter box.
Elizabeth Gallanders and Joyce Radcliffe were busy setting up the morning's activities for the playgroup at the Hightown Community Centre on Tuesday, March 2, when they noticed a burning smell.
They then spotted smoke billowing from the foyer and frantically called the police and the fire brigade.
But before the emergency services could arrive, the brave women tackled the situation themselves and removed the burning plastic before it could set fire to the building.
The children were due to arrive for the morning playgroup just minutes before Elizabeth and Joyce discovered the fire, and had they not acted so quickly the whole community centre could have been set ablaze and filled with smoke with the children inside.
Elizabeth and Joyce ordered concerned parents and children to stay clear of the entrance, but by the time the fire crews arrived they had put out the fire and the building was declared safe. There was only light smoke damage to the hallway and the playgroup still went ahead.
North Wales police have now launched an investigation and have taken the plastic away for examination.
Elizabeth said both Joyce and herself were badly shaken after their ordeal, and added they were shocked that anyone would target such young children.
But although frightened, she said it was her first instinct to protect the children and she did not think twice about tackling the burning plastic.
She said: 'No incident like this has happened in the playgroup before and our main concern is always the safety of the children.
'We just couldn't believe anything like this could have happened.'
One of the girls from the playgroup was due to celebrate her third birthday but her party plans were ruined by the fire.
Elizabeth said: 'She was in her party dress and I think it spoilt her day because she didn't get the attention she would have got. We will make it up to her though.'
The playgroup also stressed that vandalism has never been a problem before and reassured parents it was a one-off event.
The letter box has been temporarily taped-up to prevent any similar incidents.
'All the appliances in the building are checked regularly,' said Elizabeth. 'En-trance and exit procedures are always followed and fire drills and evacuation procedures are practiced regularly with the children.'