More illegal fires in South Yorkshire could threaten key services as parents warned to keep tabs on their children

An emergency services boss has admitted more illegal fires in South Yorkshire could threaten the delivery of key services, as he urged parents to keep tabs on their children.

Saturday, 18th April 2020, 8:15 am
Updated Monday, 20th April 2020, 4:29 pm

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue have seen a huge spike in the number of deliberate fires being started throughout the county since the lockdown, with a 190 per cent increase in deliberate fires during the last week of March compared to the weekly average for the first two months of 2020.

Reports of garden fires alone rose by 161 per cent for the same period compared to a normal week. This week, the vast majority of incidents the service has attended have been deliberate fires, including a rubbish fire in Grimethorpe which was restarted after firefighters left the scene.

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South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.

Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team, said: “We’ve had multiple reports of young people running away from incidents our crews have attended and it does seem the rise is mainly down to youngsters having extra time on their hands and getting bored.

“We tend to see an increase in deliberate fire-setting during school holiday periods. This tends to be worse when the weather is better.”

Mr Gillatt said “malicious incidents where people might set fire to somebody’s car after an argument” are also partly to blame for the rise.

He also warned parents their children should avoid peer pressure to start fires illegally.

He added: “Make sure you know what your kids are up to. Clearly they shouldn’t be out anyway right now but when they’re going out for their daily exercise, potentially with friends, make sure they know the dangers and consequences of playing with fire.”

The service has also been contacted by residents who have found it hard to leave their homes to exercise due to smoke coming from local garden fires where people have been burning garden and household waste.

Mr Gillatt said: “Regarding coronavirus support, this has been unaffected and we are continuing to take on extra work to support our communities where we can. Clearly, though, a further increase would make things harder.

“We’ve got around 5 percent of staff currently off either with Covid-related sickness or self-isolation.”