Clampdown on the mindless arsonists

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MINDLESS arsonists are putting lives at risk by sparking scores of reckless fires.

But together we are making a stand to Stamp it Out and make Hartlepool a safer place to live.

That is the message from fire, police and council chiefs in the town who have joined forces with the Hartlepool Mail in a bid to wipe out the smouldering problem which last year cost town taxpayers £2m.

Although arson figures have reduced substantially in the past 10 years, it is still the cause of the majority of town fires.

Dave Turton, Hartlepool district manager with Cleveland Fire Brigade said today that “enough is enough”.

In the last financial year there were a total of 583 fire-related incidents in Hartlepool, 378 of which were arson – equal to 64.8 per cent.

Between April and June the brigade attended 104 incidents, 55 of which were arson.

Mr Turton added: “We’ve made great progress in recent years reducing arson but sadly it is still the cause of the majority of fires in Hartlepool.

“People do not always understand how fire can get out of control. We have had small rubbish and wheelie bin fires that have spread to people’s homes and fires in empty houses that have involved the gas supply and caused explosions.

“It’s fortunate that no-one has been killed or seriously injured in these fires. Enough is enough. Our message is that fires are not fun, they can be deadly and we are determined to stamp them out.

“The authorities are also working very closely together to jointly investigate suspected arson incidents and we will not hesitate in seeking prosecutions when we have the necessary evidence.” District Commander for Hartlepool Police, Superintendent Glenn Gudgeon, warned people that arson can carry a life imprisonment sentence.

He told the Mail: “Where we consider the offence could have endangered life we will be pursuing the offence of arson with intent to endanger life which holds a maximum of life imprisonment.

“We have recently made a significant number of arrests in Hartlepool connected with arson, and we will continue to pursue the small number of individuals who commit this type of crime.”

Denise Ogden, Hartlepool Borough Council’s assistant director (neighbourhood services), said it is a “small minority” of people who are deliberately starting fires but that they are “blighting” communities and putting lives at risk.

She added: “They are causing wanton damage and also wasting scarce public resources. All the organisations are delighted to team up with the Hartlepool Mail and beat arson once and for all.”

The fire brigade, police and council form part of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership – a multi-agency organisation tasked with making Hartlepool a safer place.

The Mail reported last month that arson cost £22.79 per person in the town over the past 12 months. The total cost of deliberate blazes last year across the Cleveland Fire Brigade area was almost £17m.

YOU can play your part in stamping out arson.

Residents are not only asked to alert firefighters as soon as they see flames, but to also pass on information to police about anyone they suspect of starting fires.

And you can help stop blazes before they begin by reporting any mounds of rubbish that could attract arsonists.

If you see a fire, ring 999.

To pass on information about suspected arsonists, ring the police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

To report dumped debris that could be set on fire, ring the council on (01429) 523333. Take part in the conversation about arson on Twitter by following @HpoolMail and by using #stampitout. Like us on Facebook for further updates.