FIREFIGHTERS attended 55% more deliberately set fires across Merseyside on Bonfire Night, than on the same date last year.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service attended 78 deliberately set ASB (anti-social behaviour fires – this includes bonfires, wheelie bin and rubbish fires) between midnight and 23.59 hours on Bonfire Night, as opposed to 35 on November 5, 2019.
Liverpool saw the highest number of deliberately set fires, with fire crews attending 38 deliberate fires, up from 21 in 2019 (a 45% increase). Although lower in terms of incidents, all areas the Service covers across Merseyside saw an increase in deliberately set fires, with Sefton increasing from two deliberately set fires in 2019 up to 11 in 2020 (82% increase).
MFRS also attended over 72% more potentially dangerous bonfires – with nine in Sefton marking an 88.9% increase from one last year.
In contrast, crews also attended less incidents related to fireworks – down to two from seven last year.
In total, fire control received 337 emergency 999 calls on November 5, 2020, an increase of over 17% from 2019’s figure of 278.
In recent years, there has been an ongoing trend of a reduction in incidents, owing to effective work with partner organisations such as Merseyside Police and Local Authorities, and extensive arson and anti-social behaviour prevention work throughout the bonfire period. However, this year has been like no other, with the imposition of a national lockdown and the cancellation of organised firework displays and bonfires.
The service has sadly reported people gathering in large groups in violation of lockdown guidance and a number of attacks on Firefighters and support staff as they go about their duties in keeping communities across Merseyside safe.
Station Manager Joe Cunliffe said: “We are disappointed by these figures after a long period of success in reducing these kinds of incidents. However, the vast majority of people across Merseyside enjoyed a safe Bonfire Night, in large part thanks to the work the Service and Partner organisations have done during this period.
“Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service received a very large volume of calls, with our control staff doing a fantastic job of handling them. Our Arson Team also spent the night in the community ensuring that members of the public were kept as safe as possible, however incredibly, some people have chosen to attack the very people who are trying to keep them safe. This disgraceful and sickening behaviour is totally unacceptable- firefighters and support staff are not targets. This is not a Merseyside phenomenon but has been experienced by Fire & Rescue Services across the country.
“The bonfire period is always extremely busy for us as a Service, though extensive advance planning and partnership work with Merseyside Police, local authorities, registered housing providers and other community partners. This year has obviously had added factors which have clearly had an impact.
“In recent weeks, firefighters and the prevention team have been out in communities clearing away hazardous rubbish and fly-tipping, which could have been used as fuel for fires, and promoting the safe storage of wheelie bins to help prevent them becoming targets for arson.
“We are thankful to the vast majority of our communities for taking on board our safety messages and advice, and for their support in the light of these awful attacks on our staff.”
As we move in to winter, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service urges everyone to make sure they have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of their home and to ensure it is tested regularly.
For free fire safety advice or to request a home fire safety check, call 0800 731 5958.
Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service also provides free smoke alarms for Merseyside residents aged 65 or over.