FIRE chiefs in Cleveland today revealed that a single arson attack on one local business has cost taxpayers almost £750,000.
The revelation comes just a fortnight after Cleveland Fire Brigade launched a campaign to stamp out arson declaring ‘Enough is Enough’.
Twenty-four fire appliances attended the massive blaze at the Jigsaw wood recycling plant at Port Clarence, Stockton on Tees in March of this year after it was deliberately set alight. In total, appliances spent a total of 2,808 hours at the scene bringing the total bill to £741,492.90.
Firefighters worked round the clock for nine days tending to the fire after being alerted on Saturday 10 March. It took eight days to get the fire under control and another day to damp down. At the height of the fire 10 crews were at the scene, with water being pumped directly out of the River Tees.
Last year (2011/12) there were 3,029 deliberate fires in Cleveland and the total cost to taxpayers was almost £17m.
Phil Lancaster, Director of Community Protection with Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “The fire at the Jigsaw plant demonstrates just how much arson is costing Cleveland Fire Brigade and ultimately the taxpayers of Cleveland.
“This is money and time we would much prefer to be spending on fire prevention to prevent injury and save lives throughout Cleveland.
“Arson ruins lives, ruins communities and ruins local businesses and we are encouraging people to say ‘Enough is Enough’. Why should the people of this area put up with this sort of behaviour? Deliberate lighting of any fires will not and should not be tolerated by anyone and we have this message – we are watching you and you will be caught.”
Five arrests have been made since the incident but these people were released without charge.
Cleveland Police has warned that arson can carry a sentence of life imprisonment.
Assistant Chief Constable Dave Pickard of Cleveland Police said: “Where it is considered that an offence could have endangered life we will not hesitate in pursuing this through the courts and the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.”
Anyone with information about suspected arsonists should ring the Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if you want to remain anonymous.
The Brigade’s arson campaign was launched at the start of the summer school holidays and also includes a full programme of diversionary activities for youngsters, community patrols, posters, leaflets, radio advertising and online activities.