Fire chief’s plea over ‘extreme rise’ in deliberate fires putting people 'in mortal danger' during lockdown

Tyne and Wear’s fire service boss has urged the public to stay indoors after an “extreme increase” in secondary fires across the region.

Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 6:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th April 2020, 5:09 pm

Firefighters normally see a spike in secondary fires during lighter nights which include refuse and grassland fires.

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On the night of Monday April 6, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) received 98 calls with crews attending 47 incidents.

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Chief Fire Officer for TWFRS, Chris Lowther, said most of the incidents were deliberate outdoor fires – and a 20% increase on what the service would normally expect.

He added secondary fires are an area of “great concern” as TWFRS heads towards the summer.

The brigade boss has now urged the public to follow Government rules around staying at home as firefighters and other emergency services tackle pressures around Covid-19.

“We do tend to see a natural increase [in fires] as the nights get lighter but this is an extreme increase,” he said.

“As Chief Fire Officer, it worries me greatly that people are not only ignoring the mandate to stay at home to protect the NHS but are also placing additional strain on firefighters.

“These are deliberately set fires and people need to ensure their behaviour is in line with what the public expect and parents should know where their kids are. Lockdown means lockdown.

“There are a few reasons from the Government where people are allowed out of the house and they have to be adhered to.”

Fire bosses are currently analysing data around the spike in secondary fires in Tyne and Wear and working with partners and the public to look at ‘targeted areas.’

Despite rises in secondary fires, TWFRS haven’t seen an increase in more serious primary fires despite the risks being increased from more people spending time at home.

Chief Fire Officer, Chris Lowther, thanked people for being mindful about the additional risks and following home safety advice.

In a message to parents, he added: “Even small deliberate fires put people in mortal danger because our crews can’t be in two places at once.

“If a fire engine is dealing with a rubbish fire in a field it can’t, at the same time, deal with a person’s reported house fire and minutes and seconds count in fires.

“So I need the public to help TWFRS by not only behaving in a socially responsible way themselves, but making sure that they speak to their kids and tell them that setting fires is really dangerous and they must not do it.”

Under Government coronavirus lockdown rules, people are being advised to stay at home except for a limited number of reasons.

These include going to work if it cannot be done from home, to buy everyday essentials, to care for a vulnerable relative or attend a medical appointment, or for exercise once a day alone or with people from the same household.

If you have any information on deliberate fire setting, you can contact FireStoppers anonymously on 0800 169 5558 or visit

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