Fire chiefs in plea to parents

FIRE service managers in South Yorkshire are urging parents to watch for “tell tale signs” amid fears of a rise in arson over the school summer holidays.

They are concerned that fire crews may end up tackling blazes in bins, rubbish, grassland and fencing instead of life or death emergencies.

Arsonists are blamed for 61 incidents in a week across South Yorkshire – 18 in Sheffield – with most fires believed to have been started by youths.

Although that was a slight decrease in the figures, the fire service is worried that the message needs to reach more young people that starting fires can put lives in danger on a daily basis.

Head of community safety, Steve Makepeace, said: “In particular, we’d ask that parents look out for the tell-tale signs of fire-setting and contact us for advice before it becomes a serious problem.

“These signs might include small burns around the home, matches or lighters going missing or an unusual fascination with fire.

“Arson has fallen massively in recent years, thanks to our targeted education and prevention work.

“But we still attend around 5,000 deliberately-started fires every year, with a massive cost to us and the taxpayer in South Yorkshire.

“We’d much rather be putting those resources into reducing deaths and serious injuries in accidental fires and on the roads.”

Watch manager Simon Brookes, a firefighter for 22 years, said the number of arson attacks in South Yorkshire is reducing year on year but there were always “seasonal spikes” such as during the summer holidays.

He said: “People may think that a simple grass fire is a harmless bit of fun but if it’s in a hard-to-reach area such as a woodland we can be tied up for three or four hours, taking us out of circulation if there are any life-threatening incidents reported at the same time.”