Lack of school talks blamed for rise in deliberate fires in Fife

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Deliberate fires have surged in Fife over the last year - with a lack of educational talks in schools blamed for the rise.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) figures for the year to April 2021 detail how officers attended 278 more deliberately set fires than in the previous 12 months.

Overall, the service's Fife staff attended far more fire incidents but fewer road crashes compared to previous years - both thought to tie in with less travel and more staying at home during various stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The fire service has also contended with staffing issues as workers have been pinged and told to self-isolate.

Pic: Lisa FergusonPic: Lisa Ferguson
Pic: Lisa Ferguson

Ian Brocklebank, group commander with SFRS, said: "It has been an extremely challenging year for us, particularly in mitigating the effects of Covid."

Statistics published by the service and presented to Fife councillors earlier this month show that, in the year to April 2021, fire officers attended:

226 accidental fires, eight more than the year before

165 deliberate primary fires (involving items of value such as homes or cars), up 29

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Pic: Lisa FergusonPic: Lisa Ferguson
Pic: Lisa Ferguson

826 deliberate secondary fires (relating to scrubland and rubbish), up 249

98 non-domestic building fires, up five from 2019/20

1305 unwanted fire alarms, down 238 from the year before

100 road crashes, 50 fewer than the previous year.

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There was also a marked rise in casualties stemming from fires, with two fatalities, 45 home-based fire injuries and 45 non-domestic fire injuries.

However, fatallties in the road crashes SFRS attended fell by one to a total of five, while non-fatal road injuries at fire-attended crashes nearly halved from 104 to 58.

By and large, Fifers are staying safe from fire. While trends are up in domestic fires, the number remains low compared to historical trends.

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But fire officers remain concerned about the rise in secondary fires, many of which are started by youngsters. They believe their inability to visit schools to discuss fire safety because of Covid may partially explain the 38% rise in deliberate fire setting in the space of a year.

Mark Bryce, Fife's local senior officer within the SFRS who prepared the report, noted in the paper to councillors: "We continue to target schools in high activity areas to deliver talks regarding the dangers and consequences of deliberate fire setting.”

In the long term, the fire service is working on a new local plan for Fife to target areas where incidents are reported more often.

The service is also consulting on a change to how it responds to automatic workplace alarm systems in order to reduce the stress on already overstretched stations.

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Across Scotland the SFRS answers 28,479 automatic calls that turn out to be false alarms each year, costing the service £3.5 million annually.

The onus will be placed on workplaces to justify calling out the fire service.

The service is also keen to stress that it will not leave people hanging in the event of a genuine blaze.

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