NEW figures from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue have revealed deliberate fires across Barnsley have more than doubled in the last six months.
Data for secondary fires - which are those involving something that has no insurable value such as sheds, fences, bins, grass and shrubs - shows in June 145 incidents occurred, compared to just 66 in January, an almost 120 per cent increase.
Back in February, there was even a decline in fires with just 46 taking place, before a sharp increase to 122 in March.
A spokesperson from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue told the Chronicle: “Unfortunately, it is very common for fire services to see a spike in small and deliberate fires during the summer months when the weather is warmer and grass is tinder dry.
“Our advice to people is to please ensure they are extra careful with barbecues during spells of hot weather - especially if you are using disposable ones out and about.
“These should only be used in designated areas and fully extinguished when done.
“The public can also help reduce fires like this by taking simple steps such as putting litter in the bin and disposing of cigarettes carefully.
“When the ground and vegetation is so dry, it only takes the smallest flame to start what could be a huge fire.
“Finally, we’d like to ask that people help us in the fight against arson and deliberate fire-setting.”
A public space protection order (PSPO) - which now protects Barnsley and its outlying areas such as Dunford Bridge where high-profile grassland blazes have occurred in consecutive years - focuses on preventing deliberate fire-starting in public places such as parks and moorland.
As well as this, fire bosses in South Yorkshire launched a new service - FireStoppers - which allows members of the public to anonymously report information on deliberate fire-setting through a dedicated phone number or online.
Anyone caught flouting the PSPO- which is in place for a minimum of three years - will be given on-the-spot £100 fines or face prosecution through the court system if they opt against paying.( There are exemptions for private residential areas but any land that has a public right of way or public access is included in the scheme.
Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team in Barnsley, added: “This may come as a surprise to some, but deliberate fires are among the most common types of incident that our firefighters attend, yet they are often entirely needless.
“We put lots of effort in to trying to stamp out arson attacks and it is great to see that what we are doing a combination of our new FireStoppers service and work from our community safety staff and operational crews is having the desired effect in reducing incident numbers.
“Deliberate fire-setting not only endangers life and wastes our time, it can also massively destroy local parks, facilities and landscapes, so I would really encourage people to keep using our FireStoppers service to help us help you.”
* You can report information about deliberate fires to FireStoppers by calling 0800 169 5558 or visiting firestoppersreport.co.uk.