Prison cell fires cost is revealed

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THOUSANDS of pounds are being spent on tackling fires at a Wigan prison.

Costing around £1,000 per call out, firefighters from Hindley station were called out to Hindley Prison and Young Offender’s Institute 16 times between April 2010 and March 2011.

Between April 2009 and March 2010, they attended seven fires at the prison costing Greater Manchester Fire Service £7,000 that year.

In just 36 hours during the last financial year, there were three fire incidents - one of them being so serious, a prisoner has been charged with criminal damage.

To reduce the amount of fire crime in the prison, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue and Greater Manchester Police visit the inmates every Monday.

Steve Sheridan, borough commander said: “There were a spate of fires last year at the prison. The prisoners have non-combustible bedding in their cells but they find other ways to cause fires with electrical items and clothing they have.

“These fires are known as copy-cat fires, when an inmate wants to move closer to their friends, they will set fire to their cell so that they have to be moved.

“Offences like this can carry up to a life sentence and so every week we talk to the inmates and give presentations on the dangers of fire and how it can result in them being arrested.”

The prison and YOA has more than 400 prisoners and is the only institution within the Wigan borough.

Most prison staff are trained to extinguish fires in cells before the crews arrive, but firefighters still attend as a precaution.

Steve added: “We always have to go out just to check everything over and make the place safe and we only send one crew into the prison, we try to send as few men in as possible to keep the risk low.

“Every firefighter and every vehicle that gets sent there has to be checked each time.

“Having the prison in the borough is a risk that we have, knowing that the fire service’s resources will be used on tackling fires in this area. But we are no different to any other place that has a prison.”