Arsonists start 219 fires in a year

ARSONISTS in Suffolk were responsible for nearly 220 fires last year, it emerged today.Although 219 blazes were deliberately ignited between January to December, the figure was just under ten per cent down on the previous year's total of 241.

ARSONISTS in Suffolk were responsible for nearly 220 fires last year, it emerged today.

Although 219 blazes were deliberately ignited between January to December, the figure was just under ten per cent down on the previous year's total of 241.

However, a spokeswoman for the county's fire service said the statistics did not include cars torched by joyriders or yobs.

Firefighters also revealed they have been called to 13 school blazes in the county between April 1 last year and March this year, seven of which were arson.

The largest was the fire at Copleston High School in Ipswich, which likely to run into a seven-figure repair bill and was set by former pupil Ashley Norman who is currently awaiting sentencing at the town's crown court.

The latest fire was at Benjamin Britten High School in Lowestoft where bushes were set alight last Saturday.

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Divisional officer John Wilcock, of Suffolk Fire Service, said it is often not only the cost of the repairs which is an issue. The knock-on effect means children may have to temporarily be moved to others school and their course work can be affected.

Any arson means that vital minutes could be lost, making the difference between saving a property elsewhere or it being destroyed.

DO Wilcock said: “If we five miles to a call and at the same time we get another house fire a mile in the opposite direction that means we have to travel six miles instead of only one, and in a fire situation time counts.

“Sometimes we get a repeated number of false alarms for silly fires like wheelie bins, hedgerow and stubble and stack fires which are started deliberately. They are the ones that are time consuming and take us away from critical jobs that we have to attend.

“It's very frustrating, but still accounts for quite a high number of calls that we regard as false alarms.”

Suffolk is striving to achieve its target set by the government of reducing arsons by ten per cent by March 31, 2010.

As part of a raft of measures aimed at youngsters, who are responsible for starting many of the deliberate fires, firefighters are currently working with the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and police on a unique project to reduce arson.

The scheme, called "Arson Combated Together", is the first theatre production of its kind aimed at year eight school pupils in the west of the county. It will feature in ten schools and runs until Friday.

N Has your property been targeted by an arsonist? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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