Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is appealing for the public’s help to join the fight against criminals who deliberately set fires in the county as part of Arson Awareness Week.
“Fire crime” can have devastating effects with sometimes serious consequences and added cost to the public purse, said Guy Williams, Group Manager in charge of Prevention and Protection for the county.
He is appealing to people to help prevent arson by putting bins out of sight and away from property, not leaving skips full of rubbish and reporting flytips to councils.
“Arson is often a spur of the moment act done without the perpetrator thinking about the potential consequences to people’s lives and property. Don’t present the arsonist with the opportunity,” said Guy.
Incidents of arson have fallen dramatically from 1,216 in 2011/2012 to 427 in 2015/2016 due to education initiatives by firefighters’ and fire officers in schools such as the Be Cool Be Safe quiz and the acclaimed Crucial Crew education event for pupils.
Fire prevention officers also work with young offenders to make them see the often unintended consequences of their crimes.
Traditionally the number of county fires increases in April with more people out and about in the county due to warmer weather and school holidays.
“We also get a lot of grass fires caused by people carelessly discarding cigarettes or leaving barbecues in grassy areas where a spark can cause devastating fires spreading to acres of land,” said Guy.
Shropshire suffered one of its most serious grass fires in 2011 when 60 firefighters fought the spreading flames in a massive firefighting operation in difficult terrain in Grinshill Wood, near Wem, when trees, gorse and woodland were burned putting homes nearby at risk. The fire was caused by sunlight streaming onto broken glass bottles thrown down a cliff face at the Shropshire beauty spot.
A total of 50 people died in UK fires started deliberately in 2014/15.
Members of the public can help, said Lee Howell, chairman of the Arson Prevention Forum. “Arson must be reported. If you see anyone setting a fire deliberately, “don't accept it, report it,” he added.