Arson attacks rise sharply over past year

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Northamptonshire saw the second biggest spike in arson attacks in the whole country last year after the first countywide rise in deliberate fires for eight years.

Figures show Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service has managed to reduce the most serious arson incidents year on year since 2004, but in 2011-12, the numbers shot up by 17 per cent – which is the second highest in the UK, behind Cornwall.

In 2010-11 there were 295 major deliberate fires, but in 2011-12 this number rose to 345, and with the service overseeing falls in false alarms and building fires last year, its chief fire officer has pledged to keep arson attacks down.

Martyn Emberson, chief fire officer, said: “It’s an ongoing issue for us and we’re not going to stop.

“We have seen vehicles become targets for arsonists, but deliberate fires have come down continually over the last eight years.

“It can have a devastating impact on the person, and we have seen cars targeted for their value.

“But last year could just be a blip.

“We’ve already seen the number of incidents go down for the first quarter of this year.”

Mr Emberson said that as a lot of arson is associated with smaller crimes, the service was working with the police force to reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour.

But the service has posted reductions in false alarms by 16 per cent, from 3,103 in 2010-11 to 2,608 last year.

The service said this was a result of its unwanted fire signals policy, which means the service challenges calls and encourages certain businesses where nobody sleeps inside to go offline during the night to avoid unwanted calls out to the control room.

The county also saw an all-time low in numbers for house fires – 370 last year compared to 556 just four years ago.

The number of fires in non-domestic buildings stood at 189 last year compared to 347 six years ago in another lowest-ever figure for the county.

Mr Emberson added: “I’m delighted with these figures and I’m very proud of the community for achieving them together with my fire crews and our service partners.

“We’re talking about buildings that could be populated by dozens of people where fires could cause their lives to be at risk.”