Arsonists burning £500k of taxpayers’ money

Phil Lancaster, director of community protection for Cleveland Fire Brigade.
Phil Lancaster, director of community protection for Cleveland Fire Brigade.

ARSONISTS have cost Hartlepool taxpayers almost £500,000 in just three months in what fire chiefs say is a “long-term chronic problem”.

Deliberate fires in the town cost Cleveland Fire Brigade £485,760 between April and June – the equivalent cost of £5.24 for every person in Hartlepool.

The cost of arson was debated by fire authority chiefs just hours after firefighters dealt with three suspected arsons in the Hutton Avenue area of Hartlepool early yesterday morning.

Phil Lancaster, the brigade’s director of community protection, said: “It is a long term chronic problem for us.

“Arson is a blight on the whole landscape and something we should not accept.”

Cleveland Fire Brigade, which is having to deal with major budget cuts, says that arson attacks have dropped dramatically over the last decade and are down compared to last year.

But deliberate fires still cost the Cleveland economy £3.65m – £6.54 per person – from April to June.

The brigade launched it’s Enough is Enough campaign to raise awareness of the cost and nuisance arson causes.

Mr Lancaster added: “We are still one of the worst places in the country for deliberate fires sadly.

“Some may be small, nuisance fires but they still create wider anti-social behaviour.

“We want to do as much as we can to remove these fires completely.

“We are working as hard as we can to get through to the people who are staring fires and stop them.”

Cleveland suffered 2,689 arsons for 2013-14 costing the public purse a whopping £14,826,720.

That included 264 deliberate fires in Hartlepool with each incident costing the brigade £5,520.

Police and fire chiefs in Hartlepool are investigating wheelie bin fires in St Paul’s Road and nearby Hutton Court at 4am on Friday.

It is being linked to a skip fire in Hutton Avenue and the same person is believed to have started all three.

Luckily, no serious harm was caused.

But Mr Lancaster added: “Some can be extremely serious where people lose their lives.

“We have a good record of prosecuting people. With regards to the recent wheelie bin fires in Hartlepool any information from the public would be really appreciated.”

In January, Paul Nash, 30, was jailed for jailed for a minimum of 10 years after setting fire to the home of vulnerable Andrew Simon, 44, in Dent Street killing him.

Mr Lancaster said revenge, boredom of youngsters, or attempts to cover up criminal activity are among the main reasons for arson.

He said the brigade is working with Teesside University to try to learn why some people think arson is acceptable.

Anyone with information about the wheelie bin and skip fires, or any other arson, can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.