A senior firefighter is urging people to stay at home and away from country parks and heathland this Easter following a spate of deliberate fires in open spaces in Staffordshire.
These incidents are causing firefighters to be taken away from what could potentially be real life-threatening emergencies.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has received 53 calls to deliberate fires since the lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 came into effect.
There were 34 accidental fires across the county in the same period (24 March to 7 April).
Yesterday afternoon (April 8) firefighters attended a blaze on grassland in Churnet Valley railway, Cheddleton, which had spread to a patch one hundred metres square and is believed to be accidental.
Director of Community Safety, Howard Watts, said: “These incidents are causing firefighters to be taken away from what could potentially be real life-threatening emergencies.”
“Although the number of fires in this period is comparable with previous years this is much more serious during a lockdown.”
He echoed calls from Staffordshire Police to stay away from countryside parks and beauty spots including the Roaches and Cannock Chase.
In Cannock Chase district there have been seven deliberate fires during the lockdown. The Service is also urging landowners not to undertake unnecessary prescribed or controlled burns.
“The message is for people to stay at home or exercise locally staying two metres apart,” he said.
“While most people are staying away, no one except those living in the immediate area should be travelling to these areas as it is vital we all follow the government’s guidelines and stay safe.”
He added: “Fires that are caused deliberately or carelessly in the open can have devastating effects on the environment, but importantly endanger people’s lives and homes.
“Please help us to reduce demand at this time and ensure we are not over-stretched.
Firefighters are working hard and we’re in the frontline with colleagues fighting against Covid-19, still responding to emergencies and helping to look after the vulnerable in our society.”
We would urge anyone who has information on suspected deliberate fires to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
If you see a fire, or anyone starting a fire, please call 999 immediately.