ARSONISTS have been responsible for 381 deliberate fires in Hartlepool in the last year costing town taxpayers more than £1.4m.
Cleveland Fire Brigade released the shocking figures from the last 12 months ahead of a campaign to clamp down on arson.
Arson ruins lives, communities and local businesses.Phil Lancaster, Director of Community Protection with Cleveland Fire Brigade
Fire chiefs also revealed that out of the total number of 381 arson incidents, 326 of them were rubbish and grass fires, which alone cost £652,000.
Across the whole of the brigade area there were 2,681 deliberate blazes ignited, costing more than £10.8m from the public purse.
The brigade are using the Easter holidays to remind people that arson is also a crime which can easily result in death or injury and puts firefighters lives at risk and diverts them from real emergencies.
Over the school break the brigade and Cleveland Police will have a high presence in a number of areas across the region, including Hartlepool’s Old Cemetery Road.
The arson campaign is intended to encourage local parents to know where their children are at all times and to look out for any signs of fire setting tendencies or behaviour, including the smell of smoke on their clothes.
Cleveland Fire Brigade is running the targeted campaign alongside Cleveland Police to help deter, identify and prosecute arsonists.
Phil Lancaster, director of community protection with Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “Arson accounts for a huge number of fires across Cleveland and this is why the brigade continues to work closely with the police, other key organisations and local communities to put a stop to it once and for all.
“Arson ruins lives, communities and local businesses. We have just experienced one of the driest winters on record and if people deliberately start a fire outdoors it will spread very quickly, often destroying everything in its path.”
Inspector Chris Barker, from Cleveland Police, added: “Fires can get out of control so easily. It’s absolutely mindless to set anything alight deliberately and it’s important that people are aware of the dangers, especially from a young age, so that they aren’t tempted to get involved in something that could so easily turn into a tragedy.
“This is an issue that affects the whole community and has the potential to have real and significant effects on local people’s lives.
“Police would ask parents to take the time to discuss these issues with their children and discourage them from becoming involved with or associating with those who start fires.
“We would also ask the community as a whole to continue to assist the authorities by continuing to provide information that they might have to help us to identify and deal with those responsible.”
If anyone wishes to report any suspected arsonists confidentially they should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Alternatively, call the Police non-emergency number 101.