In-person awareness-raising events, such as “Crucial Crew” sessions, have had to be suspended, and local radio, TV and social media have been used to convey the message, chief officers at Shropshire Fire and Rescue write.
The numbers of housefires and arson incidents were both below Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s target in the first quarter of 2020-21. But, in a report for fire authority members, Chief Fire Officer Rod Hammerton and Assistant CFO Simon Hardiman write that the closure of household recycling centres across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin led to residents storing refuse in their gardens, increasing the risk of fires starting then spreading into their homes.
The report outlines targets the Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority set for the brigade this year. These include limiting accidental home fires to no more than 186 and having 520 or fewer deliberate fires. This translates to 46 or 47 housefires and 130 arson cases per quarter.
Officer Hammerton and Officer Hardiman note that 39 accidental housefires were recorded throughout April, May and June 2020.
“The main causation factors continue to be faulty appliances and cooking, in line with previous years’ trends,” they write. Other causes identified over this quarter have included fire spread to dwellings from secondary fires.
“One reason for an increase in this type of incident is due to residents storing household waste in gardens as a result of household recycling centres being closed during April and May 2020.
“The prevention team have worked alongside the communications team to establish a diary of social media releases targeting specific groups and utilising local and national safety messages.
“Previous years would see the service attending Crucial Crew events throughout the county. However, due to Covid-19, these events, along with others have been cancelled.”
During the same quarter, 117 deliberate fires were recorded in the county.
“The ignition of rubbish remains the greatest contributor to the number of deliberate fires across the county,” the report authors say “This occurs across both Shrewsbury and Telford and can be heavily influenced by weather conditions.”
The inability to hold in-person awareness events, they add, “has led to safety messages including information around deliberate fires and the consequences of arson being factored into a social media prevention campaign. Local radio and TV media have also been utilised to convey safety and prevention messages.”
The Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority’s Standards, Audit and Performance Committee will discuss the officers’ report when it meets remotely on Thursday, July 16.