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Kent, UK hit by spate of deliberate fires

The number of deliberately started grass and woodland fires is on the rise in Kent, UK - children and young people are likely to be most responsible for half the fires Kent Fire & Rescue service attends
Children and young people are likely responsible for half the fires
Children and young people are thought to be responsible for half

The number of grass and woodland fires being started deliberately is on the rise in Kent.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) is warning that deliberate fires have the potential to get out of hand, causing serious injury or even death and are asking residents to be extra vigilant in the fight to stop the perpetrators.

Since the beginning of September firefighters have attended 241 fires started deliberately compared with 146 for the same period last year.

Children and young people are believed to be responsible for half of all the deliberate fires which KFRS attends.*

Grass and woodland incidents started deliberately include a fire at Howe Barracks, Canterbury yesterday. At the scene fire crews were confronted with a rapidly developing fire in the gorse and undergrowth on the military training ground. Strong winds fanned the flames and hampered fire fighting operations. Six fire engines along with forty firefighters attended the incident at its height. Fire crews spent five hours at the scene, which saw three hectares of grassland destroyed by fire.

Elsewhere, in the past two weeks Medway's fire crews have attended ten incidents in the Coney Banks and Magpie Hall Road area. All of these grass and scrubland fires are believed to have been started deliberately by young people.

Another incident in the county saw two teenagers arrested in connection with a huge straw fire which caused an estimated £10,000 worth of damage. The 120-tonne stack fire in Botolphs Bridge Road, West Hythe, started last Tuesday evening (8 September) and saw firefighters from Dymchurch, Hythe, Lydd and New Romney spending 36 hours at the scene.

"Such a dramatic rise in comparison to last year's figures is seriously worrying. Young people need to be aware that arson is a crime"

Head of Community Safety Stuart Skilton said: "We usually expect an increase in deliberate fires during the school holidays, however such a dramatic rise in comparison to last year's figures is seriously worrying. Young people need to be very clear that arson is a crime and certainly not harmless fun. Deliberate fires are destructive and dangerous; those who cause them are putting themselves, firerfighters and others at serious risk."

"Not only does deliberate fire setting have an impact on the environment and community in which we all live and work, it also has the potential to divert valuable firefighting resources away from other incidents such as house fires or road traffic collisions where lives may be in danger."

The following safety tips can help the general public to prevent fires starting in the first place:

  • Keep matches and lighters out of the way of children and remind them that they are not toys
  • If you are a parent you are strongly advised not to leave young people to wander in the countryside unsupervised. Ensure that they are aware of the dangers of fire
  • Don't light fires in the countryside or drop litter which could be set alight
  • Don't accumulate rubbish which can act as potential fuel for deliberate fire setters
  • Contact your local district or borough council to arrange collection of unwanted furniture, or to report abandoned vehicles or fly tipped waste (Clean Kent 24 hour reporting line - 0845 345 0201)
  • Report any information about illegal fire setting activities and those responsible (anonymously) to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Stuart added: "We'd also like to encourage parents who know their children have shown an interest in setting or playing with fire, to refer them to our Firesetters advisory scheme for us to provide education on the dangers of their action. This is a free service undertaken by Community Safety officers so please contact us on 01622 698360."

For further fire safety advice please contact your local fire station or call the Community Fire Safety Team on 01622 698360.

*Over the last 3 years summer periods (1 April - 30 September) the percentage of deliberate fires which have been identified as being caused by a youth (10-17 years) is 47.56 percent and by a child (0-nine years) is 4.5 percent.

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