Extra patrols to combat firebugs

PUBLISHED: 11:03 03 May 2007 | UPDATED: 10:19 31 May 2010

The Essex County Fire and Rescue Service logo

The Essex County Fire and Rescue Service logo

EXTRA police patrols and a hard-hitting campaign have begun to tackle a spate of arson attacks in Saffron Walden. The emergency services have joined forces with Uttlesford District Council as a direct response to the 16 blazes that have taken place in th

EXTRA police patrols and a hard-hitting campaign have begun to tackle a spate of arson attacks in Saffron Walden.

The emergency services have joined forces with Uttlesford District Council as a direct response to the 16 blazes that have taken place in the town over the last four weeks.

Darren Riddell, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service community liaison officer, said: "We called a multi-agency team together because this is becoming a serious problem for the town and is generating concern within the community.

"We are determined to work together to stamp it out. The incidents themselves are serious, but it may be that those responsible are putting lives in danger.

"If crews are diverted to tackling deliberate fires and elsewhere people are trapped in their burning home, the consequences could be fatal."

Saffron Walden fire station officer Paul Curtis said although there had not been any such incidents for a week, it was too early to say if the spree of arson attacks had come to an end.

He said: "We haven't had any bin fires since last Tuesday, which is reassuring, but we will have to see how this pans out.

"There are a number of organisations involved in this campaign and we hope it will prove to be effective."

Initiatives targeting firms and schools will be launched in the coming weeks, while additional police patrols will be introduced and existing CCTV cameras will be monitored more closely.

The fire service has advised homeowners that there are a series of steps they can take to minimise the risk to their properties.

They include making sure that bins are kept away from their homes, not overfilling them, and trying to leave bins out before 7am on the morning of the collection, rather than the night before.

ECFRS is also launching a poster campaign and putting on a theatre production in schools, illustrating the dangers involved in lighting fires.

In the meantime, police are urging anyone with information relating to the incidents to come forward.

Insp Kevin Wakefield said: "We would like to hear from anybody who sees a person, or group of people acting suspiciously, especially around areas where bins are kept.

"I'd like to appeal to everyone to help us put an end to this. The smell of smoke and fuel clings to clothes, so if you suspect someone you know may be involved, please contact us. "All calls will be treated in confidence."

Anyone with information should call 01799 513232 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

- THREE people questioned in relation to the arson attacks remain on police bail.

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