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Arson costs fire service £500k in five years
11:00am Tuesday 15th January 2013 in News
DEALING with arson attacks has cost Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service £500,000 in the past five financial years – but the number of incidents and the cost of dealing with them have reduced year-on-year.
The service estimates that it spent £493,872.69 – mostly crew and fuel costs – on tackling 4,046 deliberate fires during the period. This does not include costs incurred by owners and insurance companies.
But the data, released to the Adver after a Freedom of Information request, shows that the numbers are consistently falling, from £110,434.99 spent on 1,010 attacks in 2007/8 to £70,081.23 spent on 623 attacks in 2011/12.
Watch manager Neil Chamberlain said: “Any deliberate fire setting carries a cost – when a fire crew is mobilised to a bin fire, or a pile of rubbish set alight, that resource is then unavailable and that could be dangerous if a more serious incident happens.
“The actual cost of attending an incident is met by public money so, even though we have been successful in bringing down the number of deliberate fires, there is still a financial impact.
“The cost of deliberate fires goes beyond the cost to the service. Where any kind of property or vehicle is involved, there is a financial and emotional cost to the owner, as well as all the challenges of dealing with insurance companies etc. Very often, such fires will mean that a community facility – a hall or a play park – will be out of action for some time, and that has repercussions.”
In September 2010, the Salvation Army hall, in Chapel Street, Gorse Hill, was severely damaged by a fire that started in a bin. Members had to move out for months.
In June 2012, the British Heart Foundation shop in King Street, Swindon, was damaged by a fire that was started in a wheelie bin behind the premises.
The service says it has worked hard to bring down the number of deliberate fires each year. WM Chamberlain said: “We have incident reduction managers, who work closely with other agencies such as the police, schools and the authorities. If we have a run of incidents in a location, we will liaise with our partners to take preventative action – extra police patrols, perhaps, or CCTV cameras.
“Where a young person has been identified as a fire setter, we have a scheme where our staff will meet with that person and their parents to try and get to the root cause.
“By using operational firefighters in most cases, we can encourage an understanding of ‘cause and effect’, so the young person fully understands the consequences of their actions.”