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ARSON RESPONSIBLE FOR 70% OF CALL-OUTS

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Deliberately started fires account for more than 70% of all fire brigade responses according to a report published ...
Deliberately started fires account for more than 70% of all fire brigade responses according to a report published today by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate for Scotland.

This is the first time a joint report has been carried out between the two inspectorates and gives the most accurate figures ever recorded by bringing together two different recording methods.

The report found that for the year 2000/01:

* the fire service attended 39,000 fires that they consider had been deliberately started

* there were 11 deaths and 423 casualties from deliberately started fires in Scotland

more than 4,000 motor vehicles were deliberately set alight

* over 38,500 other incidents did not involve casualties but resulted in huge financial loss through damaged property

* fire-raising is most common in those communities already suffering from poor housing, high unemployment and social deprivation

The cost of fire-raising to the Scottish economy is also looked at in the report and it is estimated to be as high as£188 million a year, of which£70m is in fire service response costs alone, a third of the£200m fire service annual revenue budget.

The report recommends:

* co-ordinated and structured data collection and management

* forces, brigades and local authorities work together to address the issue of abandoned motor vehicles

* forces and brigades incorporate fire-raising into their education programmes

* consideration of the provision and success of young fire-setter schemes which children can be referred to by parents if its is thought they have an unhealthy interest in fire. The child can receive councelling under the scheme and fire officers also meet with the parents to discuss the dangers of fire

* greater priority to community safety initiatives

* improved fire investigation techniques and procedures

It also suggests that the most successful way to achieve this co-ordinated and strategic national focus is to establish a multi-agency fire-raising control forum, to work across Scotland. The forum would provide leadership and organisation to all parties concerned to reduce the level of fire raising.

Dennis Davis, chief inspector of fire services said:

'Fire-raising is responsible for bringing misery and hardship to already deprived areas and it causes devastation to life and property. School fires alone can cost councils millions of pounds and cause major disruption. The resultant loss of facilities, academic material and coursework can affect the education of pupils for many years.

'Reducing the number of deliberate fires in Scotland is a priority for the Scottish Fire Service. The report highlights many issues and should act as a catalyst for an improved response in the future'.

Roy Cameron, chief inspector of constabulary, added:

'This joint inspection is the first of it's kind and illustrates what can be achieved when organisations work together. The report highlights good practice in both services but also recommends a number of improvements which, when introduced, should lead to a more co-ordinated and effective response to fire-raising'.

The Thematic Inspection was undertaken between October and December, 2001 by Her Majesty's Assistant Inspector of Constabulary Sandy Forrest and Her Majesty's Senior Assistant Inspector of Fire Services Charles Stewart.

There are a number of factors which accounted for the differences in police and fire statistics on fire raising previously collected. One of the main factors is that the police are not requited to attend minor fires unless requested to do so.

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