Warning after rise in deliberate fires

Some of the damage caused by recent fires.

Firefighters in West Sussex have been experiencing an increase in the number of deliberate fires across the county in the last week.

Crews from Billingshurst, Bognor Regis, Horsham and Midhurst have all been mobilised to deal with fires that have been started deliberately, either as campfires or bonfires that have got out of control.

In the latest incident on Tuesday evening, the crew from Haywards Heath Fire Station was called after residents noticed a group of young people had started a number of fires off Langmore Lane in Lindfield near some derelict buildings. Upon arrival on the scene shortly after 7.30pm, the crew found a number of small fires and quickly got to work extinguishing them. The matter has been referred to the neighbourhood policing team.

Matt Gamblen is West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s Wildfires Tactical Advisor. He said: “Starting a fire in the open when we have had a period of dry weather is incredibly irresponsible, as it doesn’t take very much for a very small fire to quickly get out of control and spread to nearby undergrowth or buildings.

“Fortunately we were alerted quickly to the fires last night and the firefighters at Haywards Heath Fire Station were able to extinguish them before they spread any further. Had they been left to burn, the outcome could have been very different.

“We encourage people to report evidence of fires being started, even if it is already out, so that we can monitor trends and work with local partners to reduce deliberate fires in the area.

“With lockdown restrictions beginning to ease we know people are going to want to spend more time outdoors with their family and friends, but we would urge you not to start a fire in the open.

“Starting a fire deliberately is not just a waste of your time, or our time, but it could prevent us from attending an emergency incident as quickly as we can where we are needed most, perhaps involving your loved ones.”

If you have concerns about a young person’s behaviour and believe they could be at risk of starting a fire you can contact West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s FireWise team on 0330 2222 515 or email firewise@westsussex.gov.uk.


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