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Joint operation launched to tackle high number of deliberate fires

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AN operation aiming to reduce the number of deliberate bin and waste fires in Radley Common in Warrington will begin with a day of action in the area on December 17.

Around 120 fires have been started deliberately in the area since 2015, with the spate of arson incidents tying up vital resources at Cheshire Police and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service as well as causing problems for local residents.

Almost 50 households have had their wheelie bins destroyed by arsonists and a children’s playground and a park have also suffered fire damage.

The number of deliberate fires in the area has reduced year-on-year since firefighters dealt with 36 incidents there in 2015.

But with Radley Common remaining a hotspot for arson incidents – there have been more than 20 deliberate fires in the area this year – Cheshire Police and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service have joined forces to tackle the problem.

Their joint operation will see them work in collaboration with Warrington Borough Council and local schools and residents’ associations in a holistic approach to trying to further reduce the number of deliberate fires in the open in Radley Common and the surrounding areas.

Operation Scattered will start with an awareness action day conducted by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service prevention staff and firefighters, Cheshire Police officers and PCSOs, housing officers and council representatives.

Residents will be given fire safety advice during house-to-house visits and handed letters advising them when to leave their wheelie bins out for collection and when to bring them inside so that the bins cannot be targeted by arsonists.

Leaflets will be distributed and rubbish and waste left by fly-tippers that could also be targeted by arsonists will be reported to environment enforcement officers for removal.

Sergeant Ruth Atherton said: “Radley Common is a large open space with a grassed area, a children’s playground and a community centre. It is the heart of the neighbourhood.

“Unfortunately the area has been blighted by sporadic anti-social behaviour in recent years.

“It tends to occur in the evenings under the cover of darkness and we believe that youths are responsible for the diminishing but still significant number of deliberate fires problem in the area.

“The vast majority of the fires involve wheelie bins that are taken from outside homes and waste that has been fly-tipped or left out by residents.

“We will arrest anyone we have evidence of starting such fires and will be stepping up patrols in the area as part of our joint Operation Scattered with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.”

Warrington Fire Station Manager Neil Winstanley said: “Despite year-on-year reductions in deliberate fires in Radley Common since 2015, the number of wheelie bin fires remain high.

“In fact, since 2014 there has been a year-on-year increase in wheelie bin fires in the area, with the rise since 2014 being a worrying 600 per cent.

“Those who start such fires deliberately no doubt believe that they are causing little more than a nuisance.

“But fire spreads quickly, so what may seem like a small fire can easily become out of control and put properties and lives at risk.

“Small fires that are started deliberately also tie up resources, meaning that it will take longer for fire crews to respond to actual emergencies, such as house fires.

“They also tie up police resources in terms of investigating arson incidents and trying to bring offenders to account for their actions.

“Then there is the cost of replacing things like wheelie bins and playground and park equipment damaged by arsonists, which is ultimately paid for by taxpayers.

“As part of Operation Scattered we will be visiting schools to speak directly to young people about fire safety.

“Residents, including those who have had wheelie bins stolen and set alight, will also be visited at their homes and advised about how to keep their bins safe from potential arsonists.”

The message from Cheshire Police and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is that tackling arson is everyone’s responsibility.

To make it as difficult as possible for arsonists to start fires, residents are urged to:

  • Store all wheelie bins away, especially at night, to avoid them becoming a target for arsonists (ideally behind locked gates)
  • Only place wheelie bins out on collection day and return them to your property as soon as possible after collection
  • Not overfill wheelie bins or leave loose rubbish around them
  • Never store wheelie bins by windows or doors – any fire in the bin could easily spread to your property
  • Not leave rubbish or waste outside that could be used to start a fire.

Residents with any information or dashcam or CCTV footage regarding deliberate fires are asked to call Cheshire Police on 101, give the details via https://cheshire.police.uk/contact/general-enquiries or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

To report a fire call Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service on 999.

For more information about reducing the risk of arson visit www.cheshirefire.gov.uk.

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