AREAS of grassland regularly torched by arsonists have been set alight by South Yorkshire firefighters in a bid to reduce the number of troublesome hotspots.
The controlled burning initiative is one of a number being tried by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service in a bid to reduce the number of arson attacks its crews are called out to.
It has cost fire chiefs around £87 million over the last five years to deal with 32,000 arson attacks across the county, but figures for the first month of the new financial year show that attacks are dropping, with 574 reported this April compared to 758 in the same month the year before.
In addition to the controlled burning, firefighters have also carried out cycle patrols in areas plagued by arson attacks.
In some areas locks have been put on to wheelie bins to make them more difficult for arsonists to set fire to.
The drop in arson attacks comes despite the number of deliberate fires traditionally increasing in April because of lighter nights, better weather and the spring school holiday break.
But in the run-up to the traditionally busy period firefighters have spent the last few weeks visiting hundreds of schoolchildren to spell out to young people the possible consequences of firesetting.
In Rotherham, a joint initiative between the fire service and South Yorkshire Police sees two-person cycle patrol teams visit remote, arson prone locations, providing a strong uniformed presence to deter potential arsonists.
Steve Makepeace, South Yorkshire Fire Service’s head of community safety, said: “We’ve shown already this spring that we’re using new ideas and working harder than ever to drive down deliberate fires, which are a massive drain on our resources, cost the tax payer millions of pounds every year and represent a significant safety risk to the public.
“But residents must stay vigilant to the threat of arson and help us maintain these reductions, by telling us about potential arson risks, safely storing their rubbish and reporting firesetters who might be operating in their area.”
He is urging residents to only put wheelie bins out on the morning of collection and to take them back in as soon as they have been emptied to reduce the temptation to firebugs.
To report those responsible for starting fires call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.