'Disappointment' at 1,000 arson attacks in South Yorkshire during lockdown

Disappointment has been expressed at the number of arson attacks in South Yorkshire during the first national coronavirus lockdown.

Thursday, 26th November 2020, 1:54 pm

More than 1,000 fires were started deliberately in the county, with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) describing it as ‘shocking’ that firefighter had to respond to arson call-outs at a time when they were helping deliver food and medicine to the most vulnerable.

Home Office data shows South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (SYFRS) responded to 1,161 deliberate fires between April and June – an increase of 45 per cent on the 802 between January and March.

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Firefighters in action in South Yorkshire (Picture: Tim Ansell/ SYFRS)

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SYFRS said there are traditionally more deliberate fires in the April to June period compared to January to March, but lockdown arsonists were still condemned.

Group Manager Matt Gillatt said: “It’s always disappointing to see people setting deliberate fires across South Yorkshire, but it’s even worse to think that people continued to do it during the national lockdown.

“Deliberate fires don’t just damage the local environment and risk becoming much bigger and worse, they tie up our crews and potentially slow down their response to other more serious incidents.

“During a pandemic when we were trying to support those in need, keep our firefighters available for real emergencies and help our partner agencies, deliberate fires were the last thing we needed to be dealing with.

“Fortunately it’s only a very small minority of people who set fires like this on purpose, and people can rest assured that we work very closely with our police colleagues to bring them to justice.”

Firefighters across England attended more than 20,000 deliberate fires during the three month national lockdown.

NFCC chairman Roy Wilsher said: “During these unprecedented times, the fire service is working incredibly hard to ensure the safety of communities across the entire UK, doing their upmost to protect the most vulnerable.

“However, it is shocking and unbelievable that we have seen a rise in deliberate fires, which results in additional pressure on already stretched resources.

“Attending a deliberate fire is time away from attending other life-threatening incidents and carrying out other vital work. Arson is a criminal act and fire services will work with the police in a bid to hold these people to account in a bid to see them successfully prosecuted.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.