Chris Peters, chief design manager, looks at the impact of arson in the UK
I wrote recently about arson in schools, and how it’s an issue that is more common than many people suppose.
Indeed, in England alone, there are about 700 school fires a year.
Most attacks are carried out by children and the great majority of arsonists have, inevitably, a link to the school.
But arson is also the most common cause of primary fires across much of the UK, both in buildings and setting fire to cars.
Last week, several cars were set alight in Newport.
And also, 20 firefighters had to deal with a major fire at a property in Stafford. A local man was arrested.
A man was also arrested in December, after a woman was killed and eight others hurt, in a suspected arson attack at a block of flats in Devizes, Wiltshire.
Blight on communities
Arson is a blight on communities and, quite often, the disruption and distress it causes far outweigh the financial cost.
Indeed, under new Sentencing Council guidelines that came into effect in October last year, courts are expected to get much tougher on arsonists.
The reason isn’t difficult to find because, since 2014/15, there has been an upward trend, with arson increasing by 15%.
Arson accounted for 50.5% of all fires attended in 2017/18 by Fire & Rescue Services (FRS) in the whole of the United Kingdom (213,782 fires attended; 108,024 deliberate). This is the largest, single cause of fire attended by FRSs.
In England, 48% of the total of 167,291 fires attended in 2017/18 were deliberate.
For Scotland, in the same period, 57% of 26,115 fires attended were deliberate.
In Wales, the figure was 58% of 11,020 fires attended.
And in Northern Ireland, it was 66% of 9,356 fires attended.
In 2017/18, the reported cost of fire insurance claims was £1.2bn. The estimated economic cost attributed to arson was £1.49bn.
There is a big “but” to those figures, because historic Home Office Crime Surveys estimate that FRSs were only notified of between 13% – 26% of all fires, indicating that the economic loss could be greatly under-estimated.
The economic cost
Scaling this up, the potential economic cost attributed to arson in the UK for 2017-18 was more likely to have been between £5.73bn and £11.46bn.
The NFCC has produced its first National Arson Reduction Strategy. Its overall aim is to ‘reduce the incidence of Deliberate Fires and their consequential impacts including personal and economic loss; contributing to community empowerment and economic growth.’
Of course, FRSs have been proactive in developing and implementing local solutions. These have focused on Collaboration, Partnership working and standalone Fire Service initiatives.
The national strategy seeks to build upon those to create Safer Homes, Safer Businesses and Buildings, and Safer Neighbourhoods.
A National Toolkit has been developed, giving FRSs access to initiatives developed elsewhere in the UK, and which could be tailored to local needs.
Wrightstyle’s product and system ranges can also play a part in reducing the impact of arson. They were, after all, developed to protect buildings against fire.
Our external doors and curtain wall systems, designed to protect buildings against the external spread of fire, also provide a robust barrier to vandals and arsonists trying to gain access.
And if someone does gain entry, our internal fire doors and screens are there to contain the fire at source and limit fire damage.
It is a shocking fact that some 50% of all fires are set deliberately, by thrill-seeking children or disgruntled employees – or for completely different reasons.
We would urge everyone, home-owners or business-owners, to take another long hard look at their homes and premises.
Because, while most will have some kind of fire prevention strategy in place to mitigate the impact of arson, a large number will only have considered accidental fires.
Many will not have considered the most common cause of fires…the ones that are set deliberately.