New maps show residents the risk from bushfires

Crews go to 50 “reckless” grass fires

18 April 2013

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UK — Figures reveal crews have dedicated hundreds of hours during the past three weeks to fighting blazes across West Cumbria.

Police have quizzed a teenage boy in connection with a fire near to Dent Fell last Wednesday.

The blaze, at woods near Cobble Hall, spread for just under a mile across grass and gorse and resulted in more than 40 firefighters being called.

A police spokeswoman said: “Police interviewed a boy from Egremont in the presence of his parents in connection with the fire. Further inquires are ongoing by police, working alongside the youth offending service.”

Fire crews were also alerted to a blaze on land behind the Lion Pub, Woodhouse, last Thursday. The flames – said to be more than six feet high – were visible from some distance away, and the blaze was said to cover an area of about 50sq metres.

A Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “The amount of fire service time tied up in dealing with these reckless and criminal incidents highlights just what a strain our resources have been put under.

“Committing hundreds of staffing hours to fighting the deliberate fires has meant we’ve been needlessly deployed rather than concentrating on being available for more serious emergencies.

“Also, many of the firefighters who attended these incidents are on-call firefighters and are released by their primary employers to tackle the fires so it’s not only fire service time that has been needlessly wasted, but employers’ too.

“Creating deliberate fires and putting unnecessary strain on the resources of the fire and rescue service can quite easily have fatal consequences, so anybody who still thinks arson is harmless fun needs to think again.

“We’re continuing to work with the police to clamp down on deliberate fires and would urge anybody with information about those responsible for these crimes across West Cumbria to contact the police.”

Firefighters are subsequently to visit schoolchildren to warn them about the dangers of deliberately starting blazes.

Kevin Johnston, station manager at Whitehaven, Egremont, Frizington and Seascale, said that the fire service attended schools on a regular basis to speak to youngsters.

He said that due to the amount of fires that have recently been started, it was time to go back to the schools for a refresher.

“If fire crews are attending these nuisance anti-social fires it does affect the service we deliver,” he said. “In road traffic collisions and property fires, minutes do make a difference in the chances of survival for people involved.”

Police are appealing for information from anyone who has been in the vicinity of the fires and witnessed anything that could help police in establishing the cause of the fire or who may be responsible.

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