It is felt by a number of APF members that the Government could be doing more to set a strategic intent in relation to reducing arson. The impending refresh of the national fire and Rescue service framework may provide a significant opportunity for the Government to redress this given that 45% of all fires are deliberate (12% of all primary fires) and that arson is increasing after a long period of decline.
At a local level, it is recognised that Fire and Rescue Service Integrated Risk Management Planning should be explicit in terms of arson reduction (where required) and this should link to Police and Crime Commissioner Crime Plans given the need for both police and fire to work better together.
The opportunity to join up Arson reduction activity now that police and fire share the same policy team within the Home Office should not be missed. A focus on increased collaboration at local level should be mirrored in policy terms in Central Government.
The inability to provide Incident Reporting System data (fire and Rescue service activity) remains a limiting factor and this is contrasted sharply with the ability for the public to access police data and local crime information in their local area. The latter provides significant visibility and allows local residents to hold the police to account through provision of information whilst this is not available to the same degree for scrutiny of fire and rescue service activity.
It is disappointing to see that the significant commitment by fire policy officials to the work of the Arson Prevention Forum when in the Department of Communities and Local Government ended with the move of Fire Policy into the Home Office. This would have seemed to be an ideal opportunity to join up Fire and Police Central Government policy.
Central Government policy with respect to Arson in terms of support by officials is subsumed within the Anti-Social Behaviour agenda. Whilst ASB does blight local communities and provides a high volume of low level incidents, this focus does not take into account the £1b in fire losses (of which it is estimated that £250-£450m relates to arson) or the significant lives lost each year as a result of deliberate fires.
It is suggested that a greater focus could be placed on tackling this crime and that the Home Office and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) could provide greater transparency on the policing and fire response to arson.
A focus on life protection within the Building Regulations is recognised but at the same time, property protection is important in economic terms as business interruption as a result of arson will see some enterprises going out of business and with it, reduced business rates and lost employment which will have a negative economic impact.
As a result of risk assessments conducted following the Grenfell Tower disaster, car parking and storage of refuse where this exists underneath tower blocks (not underground car parks) has been assessed and restrictions put in place in some areas including removal of car parking as well as alternative refuse collection/storage areas. This will reduce the risk of arson as removal of items that could spread fire will mean that the area under flats is more sterile. This could be designed out of future buildings through revision to Approved Document B and remain part of the risk assessment for existing buildings undertaken by the responsible person.