Danger warning as firefighters deal with three fires a day in the North East - most of them arson attacks
Firefighters dealt with an average three car fires every day last year- with the vast majority of them being cases of arson, figures have revealed.
Figures from the Home Office reveal that Tyne and Wear, Cleveland, Durham and Northumberland fire services were called out to 1,113 deliberate vehicle fires in 2018/19 – the equivalent of three every day.
It means that more than two in every three car fires attended by the services were arson.
The number is up from 1,074 deliberate vehicle fires in 2017/18, and is the highest number on recent record, having doubled from 538 arson attacks on cars in 2013/14.
The Fire Brigade Union warn that cuts could mean firefighters are less able to respond quickly and effectively to car arson.
The rise comes at a time when the fire service has been dealing with ongoing cuts to their workforce.
There are currently the equivalent of 1,743 full time firefighters working in across the North East – down from 2,636 in 2002, and the lowest number on recent record.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Deliberately caused fires put the lives of firefighters and members of the public at risk, and use up precious time and resources.
“Regardless of the cause, it is vital that firefighters are able to respond to a fire quickly and effectively, but a decade of austerity has put those capabilities at risk.
“Nationally one in five firefighter posts have been slashed since 2010, with emergency response times taking a significant hit.
“The overall number of fires in England has spiked by nearly 10% this year – we urgently need more firefighters and more investment in the fire and rescue service.”
Ian Warne, head of prevention and education at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), said the force works closely with the police to take action against those responsible for setting fires.
“In 2018/19, TWFRS attended 563 deliberate vehicle fires which included cars, motorcycles, caravans and other vehicles. Fires like these can easily spread, putting people in danger,” he said.
“We work closely with the police and other partners to reduce deliberate fires and to take action against those responsible. We ask anyone with any information on deliberate fires to report what they know to FireStoppers, either online or on 0800 169 5558. All reports are 100% anonymous.”
Nationally, firefighters were called out to 10,254 deliberate vehicle fires in 2018/19, also down from 11,166 the year before.
In the majority of cases those vehicles were cars (6,073), although other popular targets included motorcycles (2,136).
Other vehicles that were regularly attacked included vans (983), lorries (79), and the occasional bus (26).
In total, nine people were actually killed in deliberate vehicle fires in the last year, and a further 64 were seriously injured.