Counting the cost of ARSON

The fire-wrecked caravans at Holbeach St Marks last year. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG020111-119TW
The fire-wrecked caravans at Holbeach St Marks last year. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG020111-119TW
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SHOCKING figures show more than one third of all fires attended by Lincolnshire’s firefighters are lit by arsonists.

In the year to April, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue went to 896 arson fires – 35 per cent of all 2,543 fires attended.

Sean Taylor, from Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, says the fire service spent more than £21,600 responding to deliberately set fires in South Holland alone in the past year.

That cost doesn’t include the value of property destroyed in the blazes.

In the year to Tuesday of this week, there were 624 deliberately set fires across Lincolnshire – 54 of those in South Holland.

Farmers are currently bearing the brunt of a spate of arson attacks but homes and other buildings and are frequently targeted.

Two hundred tonnes of baled straw went up in smoke at a farm in Spalding Road, Sutterton, late on Monday night and a second farm in Coupledyke Lane, Frampton, lost 60 tonnes in the early hours of Tuesday.

Mr Taylor said: “Whilst some may think field/stack fires are relatively insignificant, they have short and long-term implications on the community.

“Fire engines have to be deployed, meaning they are not available for car crashes and house fires – and therefore increasing the time period people have to wait for an emergency response.”

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue and Lincolnshire Police jointly formed an Arson Task Force and the number of arson attacks now is a drop from a previous high of 1,400 calls.

Holbeach St Marks was plagued by a spate of arson attacks and one incident on New Year’s Day last year was witnessed by South Holland District Council deputy leader Nick Worth.

Seven caravans used by wildfowlers went up in smoke behind the New Inn and Coun Worth saw the yard full of “massive flames” and heard several gas canisters explode.

Coun Worth said the fire service, police and other agencies put on courses for young people and “we haven’t had an issue with it since then”.

He said it is a particularly worrying time for county farmers because they rely on straw bales as a cash crop.

Coun Chris Brewis, who is on Lincolnshire County Council’s Communities Scrutiny Committee, said: “Arson is always a matter of concern because it can have really serious consequences.

“Arson makes up a significant proportion of the total number of fires the fire service deal with in the county and there are some suggestions that could get worse for a couple of reasons.

“Firstly the economic situation could see a rise in the number of ‘convenient’ fires set by people hoping to make an insurance claim, for example.

“And I am most perturbed by the reduction in youth facilities as we all know what happens to idle hands.”