Cracking down on young arsonists in Northumberland

Youngsters who start fires are being shown the error of their ways thanks to a new partnership.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 8:00 am
Some of the damage caused in a fire believed to have been started by a teenager.

Northumbria Police are working closely with Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) to help young fire setters see the error of their ways.

It comes after reports of teens fire starting have been on the rise in the Ashington area in recent weeks.

A 16-year-old girl was arrested on suspicion of arson and criminal damage and repeated incidents have been reported at Ashington Community Woods.

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Neighbourhood officers have engaged with NFRS in a bid to crackdown on the dangerous activity.

And those aged under 18 caught setting fires are being encouraged to sign-up to the fire service’s education-based intervention scheme, named Extinguish.

PC Andy Hall, of Northumbria Police, said: “Extinguish has been on offer for several years but following increasing reports of fire setting, we’ve been directing more teens to the initiative than ever before.

“Often, those starting these fires aren’t doing it maliciously to hurt someone but they’re turning to it out of boredom and because they think it impresses their friends.

“But they are failing to see the serious consequence of their actions. Setting a bin on fire might seem like a victimless crime to them but a small fire could soon turn in to a large blaze.

“Not to mention the impact on the victim, even if their property has only been targeted by chance, having your bin set on fire can feel like a very personal and frightening ordeal.

“Meanwhile, the fires being started in woodland areas come with their own risks to the environment and wildlife as well those setting them.”

He added: “While some incidents have been so severe we’ve had no choice but to arrest those responsible, where possible we want to educate first.

“Extinguish gives children the chance to see the error of their ways and fully understand the consequences of their actions, the impact on others and how it can affect their future.

"We hope that those who successfully complete the programme never look back and make a positive contribution to their community like the majority of other young people do.”

Gail Keenan, NFRS Community Safety Department Delivery Manager, said: “There has been a rise in deliberate fire setting in our area, dealing with this type of incident is treated just as seriously as any other fire – but may mean that we are delayed getting to a fire at a property, or an RTC where people are trapped and they need our services to save lives.

“If you have serious concerns about a young person involved in fire setting behaviour, we do offer a bespoke education programme for individuals, you can contact us by emailing [email protected]

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “Starting fires isn’t always a one-off.

"Fire setters can go on to do it again and again but, seizing the moment, and offering young people the right help and guidance can prevent this.

“Even if no harm was caused, fires like this pull our emergency services away from helping others.

“We need to understand why young people are doing this – boredom, curiosity or even attention.

"We then need to do something about it.

“Educating them on the dangers and offering them positive activities and opportunities can be life-saving.”