More than 60 deliberate fires started since start of coronavirus lockdown
FIREFIGHTERS have been called out to more than 60 arson attacks since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.
Avon Fire & Rescue Service is calling on communities to help stop the fires, which it says could hamper both its response to emergencies and support for vulnerable people.
Since the start of the Government’s stay at home directive on March 23, the fire service has attended 66 deliberate fires across its area, including 10 in South Gloucestershire and 34 in Bristol.
The service says the arson attacks “put both crews and the community in danger” and are “everyone’s problem”.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Simon Shilton said: “It is so disappointing to see that, at a time when we all need to be coming together to support one another, we still have people committing crimes and ruining our local communities.
“We often attend fires that are started deliberately that present significant risks, not only to those that start them and are around the area but to the crews that are sent to tackle them.
“Now, more than ever, we would urge people to not start a fire intentionally, as it could have severe consequences. Not only is it a crime that can carry a significant sentence, but our crews would potentially be unable to get to another emergency.
“The service’s resources need to be available to respond to any fires in the home and support with humanitarian aid for vulnerable people in our communities.
“We are pleading with the public to support us to remove arson from our communities. This is an ideal opportunity for communities to get behind us on the zero tolerance to arsonists.
“We all need to work together to tackle arson – it is everyone’s problem.
“And importantly, at this time, everyone should be staying at home and only venturing out for essential journeys.”
AF&RS currently has 10 fire investigation officers and a fire investigation dog trained to sniff out all accelerants, and works with the police on prosecutions.
There were 1,329 deliberate fires across Avon in 2019/20 – an average of 26 per week. Many involve rubbish, vehicles and grassland. The figures since the start of the lockdown represent an increase on the average.
Firefighters have appealed to people to help minimise eliminate potential sources of fuel by putting bins out only on the day if collection and bringing them in as soon as possible, keeping them securely, away from buildings if possible, reporting fly-tipping and locking all business premises.
Information about arsonists can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.
If you see a fire being started or in progress call 999.
You can keep up to date with advice and news from Yate's firefighters on their Facebook page.
Picture: This fire in Bristol's Oldbury Court estate is one of more than 60 started deliberately since the start of the lockdown. Photo courtesy of Avon Fire and Rescue Service