Deliberate fires in Fife up 15 per cent during coronavirus pandemic

Deliberate fires rose by 15% year-on-year in Fife during 2020 – an issue attributed by safety chiefs to Covid-19.
Deliberate fires have risen.Deliberate fires have risen.
Deliberate fires have risen.

Fife Council’s environment and protective services sub-committee heard today that there were 17 more primary fires involving buildings and cars and 47 more secondary fires between April and September last year than in the same period in 2019.

However, road crashes requiring fire assistance have fallen by a third and “unwanted fire alarm” signals such as false alarms have dipped by a quarter.

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Mark Bryce, area commander for the Fife region, said coronavirus was leading to both encouraging and troubling trends.

In response to a question from Dunfermline Central councillor Jean Hall Muir, he said the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was coping well with the demands put upon it by the pandemic.

He said: “Generally (the trend) is going in the right direction. We have seen a slight increase in deliberate primary fires – that’s probably attributed to a lack of engagement with schools at the moment because of the Covid pandemic.

“One area that has declined is unwanted fire signals. We would link that to the current pandemic and the (lower) number of students in halls at St Andrews at the moment.

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“In terms of personal protective equipment, (Covid-19) has not affected us. It has not stretched resources.”

What Covid-19 has done is prevent fire officers from carrying out home fire safety visits, where officers inspect smoke alarms and provide safety advice.

In a period where the service expects to make 2,500 home visits, officers completed just 733. But Mr Bryce stressed that the most vulnerable members of society would still be visited with appropriate safety measures in place.

He noted: “Home fire safety visits are our key engagement strategy with the public.

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“The decrease in the number is to do with the current restrictions and lockdowns – but to give members (of the committee) a degree of confidence we are still carrying out very high and high risk home fire safety visits.”

Beyond fire protection and prevention, fire officers in Fife have been working with the council and fossil fuels giant Shell to introduce new safety measures around the water at Lochore Meadows Country Park in Lochgelly following incidents there in the summer.

A 20-year-old man died after getting into difficulty in the water in June and SFRS water rescue teams were called upon twice in July.

The additional measures, to be installed in the coming weeks, will include new rescue equipment such as throw lines and signs instructing people on how to both use the equipment and what to tell 999 operators in the event they need emergency assistance.

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Mr Bryce concluded: “The rescues we have been involved in tend to involve people that didn’t intend to be in the water. Misadventure is probably the best way to describe it.”

Note for editors: Free-to-use stock image attached.