Former club is hit twice by firebugs

The former Foundry Working Men's Club, which was hit by a double arson attack over the weekend. Pic: Tim Ansell
The former Foundry Working Men's Club, which was hit by a double arson attack over the weekend. Pic: Tim Ansell
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ARSONISTS set a former Sheffield working men’s club ablaze twice in just 24 hours - the latest attacks in a summer blighted by deliberate fires.

In two serious arson attacks, the former Foundry Working Men’s Club on Beaumont Road North, Manor, was targeted twice in 24 hours over the weekend.

On the first occasion firefighters were occupied for five-and-a-half hours after finding the club engulfed in flames when they arrived.

The following day it was set alight again, diverting crews away from other incidents for another 90 minutes.

Neil Hessell, director of service delivery for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said an unusually dry spell had played a part in the increase in fires dealt with by crews over the past two months.

He said this July was one of the driest on record for 25 years, and may have led to fires taking hold and spreading much more easily than before.

But he said despite the hike in anti-social behaviour fires, the overall number across the county had dropped, from 15,000 in 2003 to 5,000 last year.

“The key factor to this year’s increase is the significant spell of dry weather we have had this year - July was the driest on record for 25 years,” he said.

“Statistics show that when you get a dry spell the number of fires goes up, and when you get a wet spell they come tumbling down again.

“We are disappointed because we would have liked to have seen a continual decrease.

“But when you look at the number we used to deal with there has been a significant decrease over the years.”

He said firebugs need to think twice before starting blazes, pointing out each fire costs an average of £2,500 to tackle.

“Every time we respond to an anti-social behaviour fire, firefighters and fire engines are kept away from what they should be available for - saving lives and property,” added Mr Hessell.

“We are making communities safer by fitting smoke alarms on a daily basis, but when we are called out to nuisance fires we are not available to do that very important community safety work.

“There is also the financial cost to consider when each anti-social behaviour fire costs us £2,500 - a significant waste of resources which could be better spent on other work.

“Those responsible for these fires need to realise one of their friends or relatives may need us for a genuine emergency when we are dealing with a fire they have deliberately started - and they may have to live with the consequences of their actions for the rest of their lives.”

He called on anyone with information about arsonists to call the police.

“We need members of the community to be our eyes and ears and help us by reporting those doing this,” he said.

- Call South Yorkshire Police on 0114 220 2020 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.