AF&RS warns against deliberate fires

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) is warning against deliberate fires after several callouts since lockdown began.  

Despite the current Government guidance on staying at home to help alleviate the Coronavirus pandemic, AF&RS continues to be called to mindless cases of arson that put both crews and the community in danger.

Since the start of the Government’s stay at home directive on Monday 23rd March, crews have attended 58 deliberate fires across the Service area.

AF&RS is urging for the public’s supports now more than ever but also warning those thinking about a deliberate fire that they will be caught. 

Simon Shilton, Assistant Chief Fire Officer for AF&RS, said: “It is so disappointing to see that at a time when we all need to be coming together to support one another we still have people committing crimes and ruining our local communities.

“We often attend fires that are started deliberately that present significant risks, not only to those that start them and are around the area but to the crews that are sent to tackle them.

“Now more than ever we would urge people to not start a fire intentionally as it could have severe consequences. Not only is it a crime that can carry a significant sentence, but our crews would potentially be unable to get to another emergency.

“The Service’s resources need to be available to respond to any fires in the home and support with humanitarian aid for vulnerable people in our communities.

“We are pleading with the public to support us to remove arson from our communities. This is an ideal opportunity for communities to get behind us on the zero tolerance to arsonists. 

“We all need to work together to tackle arson – it is everyone’s problem.

“And importantly, at this time, everyone should be staying at home and only venturing out for essential journeys.”

AF&RS currently has 10 fire investigation officers spread across the Service, and one fire investigation dog, Jet, that can sniff out all accelerants.

The Officers all undergo specific training and are able to work with CSI to identify the cause and origin of deliberate fires that lead to the loss of life or significant insurance pay-outs. 

All Officers can be called upon at both criminal and coroner’s court to give evidence and often do.

Simon added: “Here in Avon Fire and Rescue Service we have a crack team of fire investigation staff that are able to identify the cause of deliberate fires and provide that information to the police for prosecution.

“Deliberate fires are not taken lightly and we invest heavily in this area of work. Our fire investigation dog, Jet, also has a nose for accelerants and will find the cause of a fire even if our officers can’t.

“For anyone thinking about starting a deliberate fire, I would warn them once again that this is not the time to do so.

“We work with the police on a regular basis and we will help bring you to justice.”

Latest figures show there were 1,329 deliberate fires across Avon in 2019/20. These fires were predominately rubbish and refuse, grassland and vehicles.

The public can help tackle arson by eliminating potential sources of fuel by:

  • Putting wheelie bins out only on the day if collection and bring them in as soon as possible
  • Storing bins and refuse securely and away from property
  • Report issues such as fly-tipping in your area to
  • Report incidents anonymously to Crimestoppers 0800 555 111
  • Ensure all business premises are locked and secured