HOSPICE staff are calling on the community to rally around after arsonists started a fire that destroyed thousands of pounds worth of summer fete items.

Workers at the Joseph Weld Hospice in Dorchester said they have been left ‘devastated’ and ‘upset’ after someone set fire to a skip in the grounds of the Weldmar Hospicecare Trust site.

The skip was next to a container which held thousands of pounds worth of bric-a-brac, books, cuddly toys and other stock, all due to be sold at Weldmar’s annual fundraiser fete on Saturday.

A spokesman for Dorset Fire and Rescue service said the cause of the fire was believed to be ‘malicious ignition.’ Now fete organisers are appealing for help to replace the burnt out items and for people to support the fundraiser.

Weldmar director of fundraising Caroline Nickinson said staff called the police after seeing a figure outside the property in the early hours of Saturday. When the police arrived they found the fire.

Mrs Nickinson said: “We’re just sickened that so many people’s generosity and time can be wiped out by one mindless person. We are devastated.”

Volunteers from the hospice said they had spent hours sorting and pricing all the items and had just finished putting the final touches to everything.

The annual fete is still going ahead on Saturday from 11am to 4pm at the hospice in Herringston Road, Dorchester.

It is one of the biggest fundraising events in the charity’s calendar.

Event organiser Matt Smith said: “It’s just really upsetting and it’s devastating because the fete takes months of organising, but it’s the work all the volunteers put into it.

“They put their heart and soul into this and for them it’s very upsetting. It makes you feel sick - it’s very sad.”

He added: “That’s thousands of pounds worth of stuff gone - it’s sad.”

The fete had to be postponed from July when torrential rain turned the field where it would be held into a quagmire.

Mrs Nickinson said that she hoped people would rally round and help them to replace the destroyed stock in time for Saturday’s event.

She added that all the money raised would go directly to helping the patients in the hospice.

She said: “We are appealing to the public to come and support us on Saturday - we need their help more than ever.”

She added that the charity desperately needs books and bric-a-brac.

To help the Joseph Weld Hospice replace the fete items, call 01305 261800.

Man arrested after skip fire

A DORSET Police spokesman said: “We received a call at 1.25am on Saturday to say there was a suspicious man.

“Officers arrived and were searching the area at 1.29am. They found a skip on fire between the two hospitals.

“Dorset Fire and Rescue Service was called at 1.32am.”

He added that a man had been arrested in connection with the incident but that enquiries were still ongoing.

Dorset Fire and Rescue Service confirmed they attended the scene and the blaze was out just after 2am.