Bored youths start up to 14 fires a day in East Lancashire during school holidays

Bored youths start up to 14 fires a day in East Lancashire during school holidays

08 April 2013

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United Kingdom —  BORED youngsters on half-term break are wreaking havoc starting small fires across East Lancashire.

On one day alone 14 incidents were reported including blazes in Burnley, Padiham and Nelson.

Wes Truran, community fire safety officer, said there was a spike in incidents during school holidays.

He said: “We do get more wildfire call-outs when the schools are out.

“What some kids don’t seem to realise is that all these fires, no matter how minor, have the potential to be very serious.”

Last Thursday firefighters dealt with 14 fires across East Lancashire. They were alerted to a grass fire in Harvey Street, Oswaldtwistle, followed a couple of hours later by a similar incident off High Street, Rishton.

Crews in Blackburn were called to two grass blazes in the Arran Avenue area of Shadsworth, in just over two hours, and another garage fire in Dukes Brow.

Firefighters in Burnley and Nelson had to contend with separate grass-related fires at Vantage Court Business Park, Nelson, and Cardigan Avenue, Burnley, around the same time.

Later that night saw Spring Cottages, in St John’s Road, Padiham, targeted. It is believed that older suspects were responsible for rubbish fires in Charles Street, Accrington, and Farmhouse Close in Blackburn.

But youngsters are suspected of involvement in a blaze behind Pets At Home, on the Nova Scotia retail park in Blackburn, in the early hours of Friday.

On Saturday in Blackburn, Hyndburn and Darwen, fire crews tackled a dozen grass fires, including a large fire at the rear of Ewood Park.

Mr Truran said: “We end up sending engines to fires that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

“From 3pm to 4pm we see a rise in call-outs within Lancashire, predominantly in East Lancashire.

“Urban areas like Accrington are probably the worst.

“We try to nip it in the bud by sending our intervention teams to deal with those children aged five to 16 who have been caught starting fires.

“It’s mainly parents that tell us about their child coming home smelling of smoke. That’s where we come in to work with the kids and families to educate them, both in and out of school.”

County councillor Jeff Sumner, who represents Burnley South West, said: “Over the past few days, the sun has come out and children with nothing else to do are starting fires again.

“But they don’t realise that while they are doing that there could be house fires or road traffic accidents, for which firefighters are urgently needed.”

Fire authority member, County Councillor Allan Knox, of Clitheroe, added: “If the crews are dealing with these grass fires then they could be in the wrong place when a more serious fire breaks out.

“There is a big danger here over firefighters getting distracted, as well as the risk of something horrible happening to the children who are setting these fires.”

John Taylor, senior communications manager at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “There is a correlation with these incidents and school holidays.

“Of course, it does go on in other areas and it does go on in the evenings when the children would be out of school anyway. It can also be to do with the time of year, as the grass is much more easily set alight, and children aren’t really aware of that.

“We denounce this sort of behaviour, as minor grass fires can so easily spread to property and across moorlands at speed. A fire that begins on a small scale can turn into something that ties up resources.

“That can prove harmful and dangerous to the community, where a response to a more serious incident might be delayed.

“We visit schools regularly to teach about safety and the vast majority of children are great. “We want to keep on top of this problem and would welcome any contribution from parents that helps us put a stop to these type of incidents.”

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