Brigade in call to beat arson

Arson poster killing treesCLEVELAND Fire Brigade is calling for more support from people living and working in the area as well as visitors to help defeat arson.

The call comes as latest figures show that there has been a 341% increase in the number of grass fires between April and June compared to the same period last year. In 2012 the total was 121 but this rose to 534 in 2013.

Overall, arson is reducing significantly with fire crews attending 1829 incidents in 2012/13 compared to 3039 in 2011/12 – a drop of 54%. The cost of arson also hugely reduced over the same period from £16.8m to £10.1m. In 2012/13, seven out of ten fires in Cleveland were deliberate.

Fire chiefs have chosen Summerhill Country Park in Hartlepool – the scene of 26 grass fires over the last four months – as the location for the launch of its Summer arson prevention campaign.

Phil Lancaster, Director of Community Protection with Cleveland Fire Brigade, said, “Although we are seeing major reductions overall in arson, the increase in grass fires demonstrates that there is still much work to be done. Arson ruins lives, communities and local businesses and it is time to say ‘Enough is Enough’.

“We have chosen Summerhill Country Park as the location for the Summer arson campaign launch because it is one of the areas where there is great partnership work to bring down arson. For example, in April this year there were 15 grass fires but this reduced to two in May and two in June. This has been achieved through regular patrols, talks in schools, leafleting and engaging with the public to raise awareness of the issues.

“With the start of the Summer school holidays upon us, which is when the number of arson incidents normally increase, we need to be extra vigilant and do everything we can to prevent it, however, we can’t do it alone.

“We do need the continuing support of our communities to stop these fires starting in the first place and to report any suspected arsonists confidentially by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the Police non emergency number 101. You can also sign our e-petition to say ‘Enough is Enough’ at www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/stop.”

Adam Reah, Outdoor Activities Coordinator for Hartlepool Council, said: “People who deliberately start grassland fires are blighting our environment, harming wildlife and putting lives at risk. We have had our fair share of fires in recent months at Summerhill and have been working closely with Cleveland Fire Brigade, schools and other organisations as a consequence to tackle these issues and are pleased with the progress made in reducing the incidences of grass fires.

“Despite this, we still do however need the continued support of the community and I urge people to remain vigilant to prevent fires being started in the first place. It is really important that we work collectively to stop this from happening and I would urge anyone who spots any suspicious activity or behaviour by individuals to report this straight away to the appropriate authorities.”

At the launch, schoolchildren from Hartlepool’s Sacred Heart Primary School will be involved in a range of diversionary and educational activities and get the opportunity to meet their local firefighters and learn about the dangers of arson. Partner organisations supporting the Brigade’s campaign will also be present including Cleveland Police, Summerhill staff, housing providers, the Cleveland Fire Support Network and more.

The campaign includes a full programme of diversionary activities for youngsters over the summer, community patrols, partnership working, posters, leaflets, radio advertising and online activities.

For further information, visit www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/arson or join us on Facebook or Twitter.

To help keep you and your family safe from fire, the Brigade provides free Home Fire Safety Visits and will fit smoke alarms if needed. Call 01429 874063 to arrange a visit to your home and you will receive specific fire safety advice for you and your family.