Play equipment and toys were deliberately set alight at the nursery attached to Nicol Mere Primary School in Ashton and several teenagers were spotted fleeing the scene.
Firefighters swiftly brought the blaze under control after the caretaker raised the alarm but any delay could have been catastrophic, it was claimed today.
Manager and owner Harriet Bessems told the Wigan Evening Post: “The fire was started in the outside play area but the nursery building is made of wood so it could have quickly spread as it is quite close. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if it had not been spotted so quickly.”
The Roman Road nursery opened as usual yesterday but the outside play area was closed off to the youngsters.
Decking, equipment and toys were destroyed and Ms Bessems said although the play area may be usable later in the week, replacing the equipment will take a lot longer.
She added: “We had a break-in to the play area a few weeks ago but not much damage was done and nothing was taken.”
The blaze, which was spotted at 6am on Monday, has been reported to the police and is now under investigation.
Now that the borough’s high schools have broken up for the summer holiday, the blaze could spark fears the community is due to face further outbreaks of anti-social behaviour given that many places in Ashton and Bryn have been hot-spots in recent years, including the nearby Jubilee Park and surrounding area.