Fire Brigade to attend Mass at scene of church arson attack

FIREFIGHTERS from Cleveland Fire Brigade will attend a Catholic Church where the Church house was subject to an arson attack, to offer advice and support this Thursday (August 9).

This follows the recent incident in which the priest, Father Patrick McKenna, had to escape the fire by climbing out of an upstairs window at 2am.

Watch Manager Davey Veitch, who was the Officer in Charge that night, will be meeting members of the congregation after Mass this Thursday with his fire crew and will be offering fire safety advice, handing out leaflets and urging people to rally together to stop arson.

Figures released by the Brigade show that last year (2011/12) arson was responsible for three-quarters of fire-related incidents and cost the local economy £16.7m – an average of £321,524 per week.

Mr Veitch said: “Thankfully Father Patrick had a working smoke alarm fitted which alerted him to the fire and allowed him time to get out of the building. It could have been so much worse if he did not have this in place.

“This is why we are urging the community to book a free Home Fire Safety Visit which includes the fitting of free smoke alarms where needed – it really could save your life.

“We are also encouraging people to make a stand and say ‘Enough is Enough’ – arson should not be tolerated in this area. The support of our communities to stop arson is needed and we strongly urge people to report any suspected arsonists confidentially by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Father McKenna spoke about the arson attack saying: “I was woken by the sound of the smoke alarm but there was no sign of fire upstairs. After hearing noise I went downstairs but when I tried to get through the door I was driven back by smoke. I eventually got out of an upstairs window onto the roof.

“The community have been really supportive and now I am urging the people of the area to book a free Home Fire Safety Visit for themselves.”

The Brigade is still liaising with Cleveland Police with regard to the ongoing investigation into the incident.

The attack came only weeks after the Brigade launched a ‘Stop Arson’ campaign to drive down deliberate fire-setting. This campaign includes a full programme of diversionary activities for youngsters over the summer, community patrols, posters, leaflets, radio advertising and online activities.

Tony Churchill, the Brigade’s District Manager for Stockton, said: “We are seeing a general increase in deliberate house fires within Stockton although this is not the case in the other three boroughs.

“We need community involvement to try to reduce the number of arson attacks and would like to speak with members of the Stockton community to try to set up community-led solutions to this problem. If you are interested please email achurchill@clevelandfire.gov.uk

The Brigade is also asking residents to sign their e-petition to say ‘Enough is Enough’you can sign it here.

For further information, visit our arson campaign page or join us on Facebook or Twitter.