Leeds District Cracking Down On Arson!

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) is cracking down on arson and Leeds district is no exception.

But this reckless crime is still blighting communities across the city and its suburbs and putting lives at risk. Not only that but brigade-wide, deliberate fires are estimated to cost WYFRS almost £2 million per year.

Next week WYFRS is supporting national Arson Awareness Week (May 3 to 9) when we will be spreading the message that one arson is one too many. Using hard-hitting images we aim to highlight just how destructive arson can be and we will also be lifting the lid on how our Fire Investigation Department works alongside police to investigate it.

In Leeds district there have been 1,871 deliberate fires set in the 2014/15 financial year – one of which resulted in a fatality and 19 people ended up getting injured.

It is the job of our District Prevention Teams to work alongside partner agencies to identify and tackle any hotspot areas.

The Leeds team recently worked with Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPT) and Leeds City Council Building Control to tackle an arson hotspot at empty houses in Brooklands Avenue, Seacroft.

WYFRS had been called to 12 deliberate fires involving the property and an additional five deliberate fires in the immediate area for the financial period 2014/2015.

Leeds City Council acted swiftly, demolishing the buildings earlier this year, once the necessary legal procedures were completed. Demolishing the former council homes removes any combustibles and therefore cancels out the opportunity for deliberate fire setting in this area.

Peter Huby, WYFRS District Prevention Assistant for Leeds, said: “The identification and reduction of deliberate fires in Leeds is an important and vital part of keeping Leeds a safer place not only for the general public but also for the safety of firefighters and front-line staff from other professional organisations.

“Arson or deliberate fire setting has long blighted some of the communities and estates within Leeds and I have never stopped in seeking ways to reduce this anti-social and dangerous behaviour.

“Fire setting in derelict or abandoned buildings causes its own issues as the potential for injury or death can be increased by the inherent dangers inside the buildings and its structural integrity.

“One of the other issues of deliberate fires is the resources used to respond to the incidents, reducing  fire cover and increasing response times elsewhere should there be a genuine emergency. The financial cost is also something that has a significant impact as we strive to deliver a cost effective and efficient service to the public.”

Leeds City Council executive member for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel, Councillor Peter Gruen, said: “The cost of arson isn’t just financial as it can cause untold misery for communities.

“Thankfully, a joined-up approach with our fire service colleagues developed over the past 10 years has seen the number of deliberate fires drop dramatically.

“We all have our part to play in preventing fires – accidental or deliberate. As a council we’ve taken a number of innovative steps to deter would-be arsonists, particularly in our empty properties, and we’ll continue to do so as we’re not prepared to let fire ruin properties or lives.”

For WYFRS nuisance deliberate secondary fires also tie up our life-saving resources unnecessarily. In the 2014/15 year the fire service recorded 976 deliberate rubbish fires across Leeds district, of which 222 involved wheelie bins.

WYFRS District Prevention Manager, Lisa Toner, added: “We are approaching the summer season when we do see a rise in nuisance fires. The combination of lighter nights and dryer grassland can result in a rise in deliberate fire setting but our message is that if you play with fire not only do you risk a criminal conviction but you could also end up with blood on your hands.”

WYFRS will continue the battle against arsonists and works closely with police to prosecute wherever possible.

Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Atkinson, Head of Leeds District Reactive CID, said: “Arson is serious crime, particularly where it puts lives at risk, and as such we treat incidents very seriously.

“Officers work closely in partnership with specialist fire investigators and our own forensic experts to establish the causes of suspicious fires and to capture all the available evidence that can assist us in identifying and tracing those responsible.

“The arsons we see can range from incidents such as bin fires linked to anti-social behaviour to deliberate fires resulting in death or serious injury or costly damage to buildings.

“Where series of offences are identified we work alongside the fire service to co-ordinate our response both on the investigative side and in prevention and deterrent activities in the communities involved.”

WYFRS Leeds District figures for deliberate fires for the last five financial years. Primary fire figures include dwellings, commercial, road vehicles and other. Secondary fire figures include rubbish fires. Wheelie bin fires are included within rubbish fires – categorised as of 2012/13.

2010/11

2011/12

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

Total

Primary Fires

568

499

421

375

424

2287

Dwellings

89

104

89

61

74

417

Commercial

59

62

43

67

61

292

Road vehicles

310

231

203

183

232

1159

Other primary

110

102

86

64

57

419

Fatalities

1

2

2

1

1

7

Injuries

17

28

23

23

19

110

2010/11

2011/12

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

Total

Secondary Fires

2469

2445

1237

1618

1447

9216

Rubbish fires

1614

1402

868

989

976

5849

Wheelie bins

186

253

222

661