FIREFIGHTERS in Barnsley have asked for the public’s help in cracking down on deliberate blazes after almost 1,000 arson attacks were reported in the town last year.
In response to the 989 deliberate incidents they were called to in 2020 - a year dominated by large spells of lockdown periods where essential travel was advised - South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue has joined up with an arm of the national charity, Crimestoppers.
‘Firestoppers’ allows the public to anonymously report any information they have on deliberate fire-setting by calling a dedicated helpline.
Service bosses told the Chronicle they hope the new initiative will help reduce call-outs, protect public property and keep people safe - as well as having environmental benefits.
“We’ve made great strides in terms of reducing house fires over the last ten years, but nearly 1,000 deliberate fires in one year is 1,000 too many,” said Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team.
“We want to show people we are taking this issue seriously and we also felt we needed to provide people a safe, anonymous route to report details of arson attacks to us.
“Other fire services across the country have successfully reduced deliberate fire-setting by up to 20 per cent through this service, and we’re hoping it will have a positive impact here.
“Our ask of the public is simple - if you know anything about deliberate fires in your area, please report it via the FireStoppers line and help us crack down on these fires.”
South Yorkshire figures show that Doncaster was the worst-hit area with 1,116, followed by Rotherham with 1,053, Barnsley with 989 and Sheffield with 787, totalling 3,945 in the county.
Matt added: “Fires started as a bit of fun can soon turn into something much more serious and divert crews from dealing with life-threatening situations elsewhere.
“Officers from the town’s stations know where the worst-hit areas are and so we’ll be increasing patrols there to deter further fires.
“Grass, especially when it’s had little rain, is stood up on end and is the perfect material for a fire to spread - put a small breeze into the equation and a fire can turn into something very big in no time at all.
“These fires take a considerable amount of fire service time and resources to extinguish.”
A spokesman from Firestoppers urged Barnsley residents to help officers build a better picture as the warmer months - traditionally a period of high amounts of call-outs - arrive.
“Even small outdoor fires can be dangerous because they place additional stress on our limited resources - dealing with a nuisance fire affects our ability to respond to more serious incidents like house fires or road traffic accidents,” they said.
“Firestoppers gives people an anonymous way to report what they know about deliberate firesetting.
“It’s managed by Crimestoppers, who remove all details that could be used to identify the person who has contacted them before passing the report to the police.”