Cost of deliberate West Lothian fires investigated

The cost of deliberate fires in West Lothian to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is to be investigated by the council amid concern about a summer of fire-raising.

By Stuart Sommerville, LDR
Friday, 24th December 2021, 9:16 am
Stock photo by John Devlin.

The move has been prompted by a report from fire officers covering the first and second quarters of the year – taking in the busy summer months which usually see a surge in deliberate fires.

A report delivered to the Services for the Community PDSP said: “Deliberate fire setting is a significant problem for the SFRS and partners in West Lothian. In the main, deliberate fires are secondary fires categorised into either refuse, grassland or derelict buildings incidents.

“There is a close link between deliberate secondary fires and other forms of anti-social behaviour.”

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The report, by area commander Dave Sharp, added: “The majority of deliberate fires involved grassland, woodland, refuse and wheelie bins which are recorded as deliberate secondary fires. SFRS attended 153 deliberate secondary fires which correlates to 82% of all deliberate fires in the West Lothian area during this reporting period.

“Good dry and warm weather over the period and the continued change in behaviours and peoples activities due to Covid-19 remains a contributory factor to this incident type. The majority of deliberate primary fires involved outdoor sheds and outbuildings, woodland areas and light vehicles including cars and vans.

He added: “We use a range of methodologies and local initiatives as part of our Thematic Action Plans throughout the year. Knowledge input to schools plays a key part in reducing deliberate fire setting and anti-social behaviour. Linking in with our partners on initiatives to provide a more targeted approach.”

Councillor George Paul, Chair of the Services for the Community Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP) has requested an idea of the financial impact on the service, asking: “Can we get some cost analysis of how much deliberate fires cost you in the SFRS?”

Cmdr Sharp said exact cost figures for the reporting period from 1 April to 30 September were not included in his current report but he would be happy to supply them to the next meeting of the PDSP.

He added that he would also supply costs of firecrews attending unwanted Fire Alarm Signals (UFAS). The SFRS has conducted a national survey of attitudes towards attendance of ufas and is currently formulating a new strategy. New proposals, which could include changing levels of response to UFAS, will come before councils in the new year.

The SFRS has been keen to stress it does not want to go down the road followed by fire services colleagues in England where frequent “offenders” – premises where alarms are regularly set off for technical reasons rather than fires – face financial penalties.

Fire officers stressed that there would always be a red light response to fire alarms in premises such as residential facilities, hospitals and care homes, where people sleep.