Arson attacks on the rise

Police at the scene of an arson attack on Preston Road, Standish last year
Police at the scene of an arson attack on Preston Road, Standish last year

ARSON attacks on Wigan homes have risen by more than a third in a year.

Fire chiefs today vowed to further strengthen partnerships aimed at driving down fire-raising and also pointed out that such teamwork has already led to a decrease in many other types of emergencies attended by local crews.

Latest figures from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service show that domestic arsons in Wigan borough rocketed from 44 to 63 in the space of just 12 months.

There has also been a slight increase in vehicles being torched, with 107 in 2011/12, compared with 103 the previous year.

But thanks to GMFRS’s work with Wigan Council’s parks and environmental teams and Wigan and Leigh Housing, they have seen a big drop in rubbish fires from 1,369 to 1,045.

The number of accidental house fires almost halved from 306 in 2010/11 to 177 the following year.

As a result, there have been 30 fewer people having to escape or be rescued from house blazes, that number dropping from 178 to 148.

But there have been two deaths following house fires: Leslie Cunliffe, 67, of Leaway, Ince, who lost his fight for life last September after an electrical appliance set alight, and Michael Dean, 49, of Sefton Road, Bryn, who died in February.

There were slightly more casualties whose treatment ranged from precautionary checks to hospital admissions, with 43 in the year up to the beginning of this month compared with 40 the previous year.

Three fewer non-domestic fires occurred, with 90 in 2010/11 and 87 last financial year.

GMFRS’s teams have been working with inmates at Hindley Prison, creating a 50 per cent reduction in deliberate fires in cells, from 19 to 11.

There were fewer false alarms (512, down from 623), after crews have been offering more safety inspections and working with schools to improve their awareness. The number of malicious calls was virtually unaltered in the mid-50s and the frequency of hostile attacks on crews remained on nine, although the incidents were less severe.

Traffic crashes attended by local crews rose from 70 to 75, with 12 incidents on the M6 last year.

Wigan borough manager Steve Sheridan said: “Our fire crews have done a lot of work to help prevent accidental house fires. Crews and our community action volunteer teams have conducted 8,500 home safety checks this year, which has been a huge benefit. It costs £23,000 per house fire, so by reducing this by 30 homes, is a huge saving. But we still have a rise on deliberate house fires.

“Some of these cases are domestic abuse and a current trend is for self harm and mental health issues, so we are doing lots of work with 5 Boroughs, public health and Wigan and Leigh Housing to tackle the root cause.

“We have seen a 3.88 per cent increase in vehicle fires, which are mostly in Leigh, so we have been working with the police - Operation Goshawk - which has shown a fantastic reduction from 10 incidents a month to one.

“Overall, since 2004 we have halved our incidents and we will continue to drive down the figures. But we could not do this on our own. It is all about prevention and working with different partner agencies.”