£14m cost of arson attacks

FIRE chiefs are set to launch a month-long crackdown on arsonists.

Cleveland Fire Brigade says arsonists were responsible for around three quarters of all fire-related incidents in 2010-11, with an estimated cost of £14m to the local economy.

The campaign is being launched to coincide with the light nights and Easter school holidays when fire chiefs usually see a sharp rise in arson attacks.

Last year, Hartlepool had 27 incidents during the Easter school holidays, among 237 across the brigade area.

The brigade says the campaign will drive home the message that arson is a potentially deadly crime and will team up with police to make sure offenders are brought to justice.

Barry Waller, of Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “The large majority of fires in the Cleveland area are arson related and we are determined to do everything we can to address this issue.

“During the campaign we’ll be working closely with the police and other key partners to get the message across that arson is a crime and can kill.

“It also has a devastating impact on businesses and the residents of Cleveland in lots of other ways.

“We estimate that arson costs the local economy over £14m a year. On top of this you have the damage it causes to the fabric of our communities and the misery it brings for everyone.”

There was 51 arson attacks in the borough of Stockton, which includes, Wolviston, Billingham and Wynyard, between April 11 and 25 last year.

There were 237 arson incidents across Cleveland during the Easter break.

Mr Waller added: “We do have a close working relationship with the police and will continue to work with them to bring the perpetrators to book.

“We need the support from the community to stop starting fires in the first place and during the campaign we’ll be educating people about the dangers as well as diverting people to a wide range of productive activities within their local community.

“Also we need support from the community to report any suspected arsonists.”

Anyone with information on suspected arsonists can call Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555111.