Arson Prevention Forum

Arson Prevention Form Logo

Push for public vigilance after spate of derelict building fires

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service are issuing an urgent warning about the danger of derelict buildings, after the recent fires at the Quality Hotel in Plymouth. People are putting themselves and those that work for the emergency services at risk.

In the last few weeks fire crews from Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service have been called to tackle two deliberate fires at the empty and run-down Quality Hotel on the Hoe.

Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer and Chairman of the National Arson Prevention Forum said: “Arson is a crime and places unnecessary risk to those involved and to firefighters who respond to deal with the impact of deliberate fire setting. At the same time, whilst the Fire Service is dealing with fires in unoccupied and derelict buildings, we are tying up valuable resources that may be needed at other emergencies.

 “We urge anyone with information as to who may be setting these fires to call the police or crimestoppers immediately.”

Paul Bray, Fire Protection Manager said “Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service are asking that during the school holiday period everybody who lives, works or passes near to a derelict building becomes even more observant than normal and if anything suspicious is seen then to contact the Police. The fire and rescue service is encouraging parents to be aware of where their children are and what they are up to during the summer break. Derelict buildings can be seen as playgrounds and young people do not understand the danger they are putting themselves in”.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: "If anyone sees any suspicious activity then they should call the emergency services immediately on 999. Starting fires can sometimes be seen as 'pranks' but they can lead to very serious consequences for any victims and offenders alike.”

Leader of Plymouth City Council, Tudor Evans said: “We are fed up with the lack of action in tackling the arrangements for securing this property from would-be arsonists. I have written to the owners demanding urgent action to put in place appropriate and effective arrangements to secure the property. I have also reminded them of their legal liability under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 for loss or injury suffered by trespassers as a result of any further incident at the site.”

Councillor Philippa Davey, Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities for Plymouth City Council, said: “The owners of the hotel failed to comply with an untidy land notice which required them to remove any graffiti and repair or board over broken and missing windows, so we will now start legal proceedings to prosecute them. In the meantime I would urge people to stay away from the hotel. Because of fires and historic damage there is a serious health risk to people if they enter the building as they could be exposed to potentially harmful asbestos particles.”

If anyone has any information about fires no matter how big or small please telephone crimestoppers on 0800 555111 where they can give details completely anonymously.

Ends

Notes to editors:

Abandoned buildings can pose several challenges for firefighters. By their very nature, we don’t know what state of repair or disrepair they are in. This poses all sorts of different hazards, such as risks of structural collapse and exposure to electricity. There could be floorboards missing and rails missing from stairwells. A fire will spread much more quickly in a derelict building because fire safety measures such as doors and alarms may have been removed and disabled. In a derelict building the Fire and Rescue Service may decide that it is simply too dangerous to commit firefighters into these premises, but it’s sometimes impossible to know if people are still inside.

The Fire and Rescue Service has been working closely with Plymouth City Council and Devon and Cornwall Police in order to make the property safe.

As of this morning (11 August) the Council will start legal proceedings to force the owners of the site owners to take action to clear and secure the area. As the owners of the site have failed to comply with an Untidy Land Notice which expired at midnight.

The Arson Prevention Forum was established in 1991 to co-ordinate a national campaign to reduce arson, raise awareness of the problem and bring together public and private organisations sharing these objectives. The Forum has been supported by insurers through the Association of British Insurers, and received some funding from the Home Office in the initial years. The APF can be contacted via stoparsonuk@dsfire.gov.uk

The APF programme of work includes:

  • Developing guidance for best practice in arson prevention and investigation;
  • Commissioning arson-related research, evaluating existing schemes and policies and disseminating findings;
  • Bringing together interested parties to share information and experience;
  • Helping to develop better relationships and improved liaison between different agencies; and 
  • Working within communities to raise awareness of arson and arson prevention.