One in four fires started deliberately: Arson attacks double over 10 years

THE NUMBER of arson attacks has reached a record level as the recession continues to fuel crime, leaving insurance companies to foot a bill of about pounds 300m for last year.

According to latest figures, nearly one in four fires is started deliberately and the number of arson attacks has doubled in 10 years.

The Fire Brigades' Union believes continuing unemployment and the high number of firms going out of business are among the major causes of the increase.

Arson has also increased as part of a general rise in crime. More fires are started as petty vandalism by bored children and teenagers and by burglars attempting to cover their tracks.

David Higgs, national officer for the FBU, which has 50,000 members, said: 'This is a reflection of the society we live in and we are very concerned because of the danger to our members.

'There has been a general rise in vandalism but poverty and the recession provide many reasons for people to start fires. Businesses are failing and people try to make insurance claims. Others have been sacked and want to get back at their employers.

'Unfortunately, I do not think the situation got any better last year. We would like to see tougher punishments for arsonists.'

Latest figures from the Arson Prevention Bureau show there were 26,300 arson attacks in occupied buildings in 1992 compared to 24,862 in 1991.

In 1981 there were 12,772 and in 1971 5,288. Arson now accounts for 24 per cent of all fires in occupied buildings.

Douglas Woodward, director- general of the bureau, set up and funded by the Home Office and the Association of British Insurers, said there had been some success in tackling arson.

'Insurance companies are paying out less which suggests that the larger scale insurance frauds are in decline,' he said.

Mr Woodward added that the release of former mentally ill patients into the community had also contributed to the increase and petty vandalism had risen.

The Association of British Insurers said claims resulting from all fires were pounds 650m in 1993 compared to more than pounds 1bn in 1991. About half of it was due to arson.

In West Yorkshire, one of the worst regions for arson, a special squad of fire officers has been set up to tackle the pounds 40m-a-year problem. The squad will develop specialist knowledge and operate from the fire service's headquarters at Birkenshaw, near Bradford.

According to the fire authority, there were 3,996 deliberate fires in West Yorkshire in 1992 - nearly half of all fires. The number of arson cases has tripled since 1988.

West Yorkshire's deputy chief fire officer, Malcolm Saunders, said arson was on the increase but the figures also reflected greater expertise in fire detection.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence