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'Arsonists could put people's lives at risk'
ARSON attacks are on the rise in Oxford with firefighters warning the crime could end up costing lives.
Police investigated 43 arsons between April and August in Oxford – up on the 39 in the same period in 2011.
Slade Fire Station manager Paul Webster said: “It is an extremely dangerous crime which can lead to lives being lost. These fires prevent fire engines being able to respond to a more serious incident.
“Arson costs the fire and rescue service, Thames Valley Police and the local authority time, resource and money.”
So far this year, Slade crews have been called to arson attacks on 25 cars, 22 bins, seven motorbikes and seven trees or hedges, as well as a tent, sheds, garden furniture, hay bales and a bean bag.
The station gets about 800 emergency calls a year.
Mr Webster said Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service had no idea who the perpetrators were.
He urged anyone with information to call Crimestoppers in a bid to prevent more attacks.
Oxford police commander, Superintendent Chris Sharp, said: “Some who cause minor fires may not see the seriousness of their actions. The fires can spread to nearby buildings, cars or other streetside furniture.
“In extreme circumstances, when a small fire gets out of control and spreads to nearby buildings, it can put people’s lives at risk.”
While the latest figures show police have not solved an Oxford arson attack between April and August this year, Mr Sharp said there had been 10 arrests and one suspect had been charged.
He added: “The majority of arsons this year have been bin fires or grass verges.
“The bin fires have mainly been at night or when there are fewer people around.”
Between April and August last year city police could not solve any arson attacks and in the period the year before five per cent of arsons saw a charge, conviction, or caution.
Mum-of-one Tracey Ludlow, 39, from Rose Hill, moved from her previous home on the estate after a series of fire attacks on bins and sheds in March 2011.
She said: “I think it is pretty shocking that they haven’t found anybody because it is quite a serious thing.”
In Cherwell, from April to August, there were 17 arsons but none of them resulted in charge, conviction, or caution.
There were 13 incidents in South and Vale and 11 in West Oxfordshire.
Anyone with information about arson attacks can call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.
Police have appealed for witnesses following a suspected arson at a house in Berinsfield. A fire was started outside the property in Lay Avenue at around 2.30am on Thursday, causing damage to the front door. Residents fled through a back door.
Some of the arson incidents this year:
- June: A thatched shelter built by young people at Cogges Manor Farm in Witney was destroyed by arsonists
- July: 50 log seats destroyed in a bonfire at Witney’s Deer Park Wood
- July: Suspected arson attack on a caravan in Littlemore
- July: A historic train carriage destroyed in a suspected arson attack at Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway Association in Chinnor