Firefighters were called out to deal with more than 1,000 arson attacks across Avon and Somerset last year, new figures have revealed.
Avon Fire and Rescue was called to a total of 1,202 incidents of arson – 10 per cent down on the previous year where it dealt with 1,336.
The reduction in incidents is largely believed to be down to the pandemic.
The Government lockdown restrictions that were in place for most of last year led to a general fall in crime.
The figures include 41 arson attacks on houses, 66 on other buildings, 56 grass and other outdoor fires and 221 torched cars and other vehicles.
The attacks include a police van which was set ablaze in March during a “Kill the Bill” protest in Bristol.
There was also one chimney fire and 817 secondary blazes.
Fires sparked deliberately in 2020/21 caused two deaths.
There were also 10 casualties, which included six people who required hospital treatment – one who was in a “severe” condition – another three who received first aid for smoke inhalation or some other form of injury, and one who was given a precautionary check.
The previous year there were 14 casualties, including seven who were hospitalised.
Since 2010/11 there have been a total of 18,394 fires started deliberately that have been dealt with by Avon Fire and Rescue Service.
In total, those arson attacks have been responsible for causing the deaths of 13 people, as well as 225 casualties, which include 105 who needed hospital treatment.
Separate figures show that Avon and Somerset Police recorded 228 offences of arson in Bristol in 2020/21, including 28 of the more serious crime of arson endangering human life.
Over the last decade, police have recorded a total of 3,269 arson offences in Bristol, including 535 which have put lives at risk.
In total, Avon and Somerset Police recorded 557 crimes of arson last year, down from 680 in 2019/20.
So far only 3% of those offences (14) have resulted in someone being charged.
There were 3,221 arson offences recorded by police forces in England and Wales last year, down from 25,071 in 2019/20.
An offender was charged with arson in just 4% of cases in 2020/21, which is the same proportion as the previous year.
Since 2010/11 690 people have lost their lives as a result of arson in England.
Last year, there were 59 fatalities caused by deliberate fires, which is one more than in 2019/20.
There were also a total of 880 casualties, including 395 who required hospital treatment – with 107 of them in a “severe” condition.
The previous year there were 1,023 casualties, which included 480 who were taken to hospital, 114 with severe injuries.
Over the last 10 years, the number of fires sparked deliberately has fluctuated.
However, the 63,712 incidents in 2020/21 were 16% lower than the previous year, and the lowest in the last decade.
Mark Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) added: “It is a tragedy that we have lost so many lives in fires started deliberately over the last decade and our thoughts go out to those who have lost a loved one or been affected by these dreadful incidents.
“The decline in the number of fires started deliberately is a positive trend, but one arson attack is one too many.
“It is an utter disgrace that people choose to put lives at risk – including those of firefighters who are called out to these incidents.
“Firefighters have done fantastic work engaging with young people and the wider community and this has a direct impact in reducing deliberate setting of fires.
“Regrettably, austerity cuts have reduced the ability of the fire and rescue service to undertake such work. That’s why cuts and underfunding of our service are so short sighted.
“Those who start fires on purpose need to understand that they are putting more strain on our already over-stretched and under-funded fire services. Fire services are at breaking point following a decade of cuts and every incident like this takes resources and personnel away from other emergencies, endangering more lives.”
Earlier this year, Avon Fire and Rescue Service paid tribute to Bristol firefighter Fleur Lombard on the 25th anniversary of her death.
The 21-year-old died searching for missing people during a fire at Leo’s Supermarket in Staple Hill on February 4, 1996.
The blaze had been started deliberately by arsonist Martin Cody.
A spokesperson for the National Fire Chiefs Council said: “The reality is, these calls are not only diverting firefighters away from other potentially life-threatening call-outs, they also show a lack of respect for firefighters.
“As well as the life-changing injuries arson can bring, arson attacks disrupt the economy, schools and communities.
“We would like to see the courts hand out the strongest possible sentencing they can.
“Arson has been a blight on local communities for some considerable time, having in the main an economic loss to people, businesses, communities and local authorities.
“Aside from this, the demands on some fire and rescue services from arson and deliberate fires far outweighs that of other incident types, resulting in resources being diverted away from life risk incidents and preventive activities.”
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