FIREFIGHTERS have blasted irresponsible time-wasters after crews tackled two malicious prank fires in the space of three days.
Crews from Wigan were called out after three mattresses were hauled on to the roof of St Jude’s RC Primary School in Worsley Mesnes and set ablaze at around 3am on Friday.
The person responsible pushed a bin up against the school wall in order to drag the items on to the roof and torch them. Fortunately the blaze did not take hold and only minimal damage was caused to the building.
The incident comes barely 36 hours after youths broke into a derelict mill in Atherton and lit a fire in an inaccessible corner of the third floor, sparking a massive operation involving numerous fire engines, an aerial platform, officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS).
Firefighters today issued a scathing attack on the selfish people responsible for such stunts, saying tackling prank incidents is an appalling waste of resources which could prevent crews reaching genuine emergencies.
Martyn Smith, watch manager at Wigan fire station, said: “I have no idea why anyone could be bothered getting into the school grounds, carrying these mattresses on to the roof and setting fire to them.
“Fortunately the fire was only the size of the mattresses and was spotted by a passer-by, but had it broken through into the school I don’t know what would have happened.”
Firefighters returned to the Worsley Mesnes Drive school with GMP to study CCTV footage and try and identify the trespasser, who had fled the scene by the time crews arrived.
The operation took around an hour, just days after fire crews from Atherton, Leigh and Bolton Central spent almost two hours at Howe Bridge Mill on Gloucester Street.
After putting out the fire on the third floor of the mill and clearing the smoke-logged open space, crews had to systematically search the building floor by floor to check no-one was still there.
Police spent around 40 minutes attempting to remove the young people from the mill before summoning the fire crews, and the ambulance service also had to attend in case of any injuries.
Firefighters urged parents to make sure children were aware of the dangers of trespassing, saying they believed the group of youngsters had spent much of the school holidays in the mill.
Watch manager Simon Wood said: “The message to parents is know where your children are. The mill is full of high floors and if a child was in there alone and fell no-one would know.
“This is a waste of resources for what was a small prank fire. We cannot be in two places at once and if a fire occurs while we are on such an incident a fire engine will have to be sent from further afield.
“It then takes them longer to get there and seconds do cost lives. Setting fires in derelict buildings also costs the taxpayer a lot of money.”