Warning issued after spate of ‘suspected arson’ attacks in Horsham

Children are being urged not to play with fire after a number of suspected arson attacks in Horsham.

Firefighters have discovered several ‘unexplained’ fires in the area, a spokesman for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said.

Horsham District Council neighbourhood warden Lucy Hallett, Horsham firefighter Bianca Marques, neighbourhood warden Alison Page and firefighter Quentin Smith with the burnt out tree near the pump track.

Horsham District Council neighbourhood warden Lucy Hallett, Horsham firefighter Bianca Marques, neighbourhood warden Alison Page and firefighter Quentin Smith with the burnt out tree near the pump track.

Several small fires around the town ‘which appear to have been started deliberately’ sparked the summer warning from the service.

Firefighters have also been made aware of similar concerns in Slinfold, and are urging residents to remain vigilant.

The spokesman said: “With the summer holidays now in full swing, firefighters and the town’s neighbourhood wardens have joined forces to spread the word about the dangers that can arise from antisocial behaviour.

“Working with 4TheYouth, they will be holding a number of outreach sessions at different locations around the town with the Snack Wagon Van.

“Here they will be providing different activities while offering preventative information on drugs and knife crime, as well as tips on healthy lifestyle choices and sexual health outreach.”

The fire service said the hollow of a tree had been left charred near Horsham pump track at Highwood Mill.

A spokesman for Horsham District Council added: “It is concerning and disappointing to learn about this incident which follows other criminal damage in and around the pump track since it was opened.

“The council works on behalf of the community to negotiate such facilities and funds spent repairing or replacing damage could otherwise be spent more constructively on future improvements.

“We encourage all residents to report anti-social behaviour and criminal damage to Sussex Police on telephone number 101 or 999 in an emergency.”

On some occasions, the fire and rescue service had not been made aware of the fire at the time, meaning it could have burned for longer or in some cases even got out of control and caused further damage, the fire service spokesman said.

He added: “Firefighters are encouraging members of the public to call 999 even if they think the fire is already out, so that they are aware of the incident and spot any trends that may be emerging.”

James McGrath, Horsham fire station commander, said it was concerning to see a number of suspected cases of arson in the area.

He added: “Sadly it is not uncommon to see a small rise of this type of incidents during the school summer holidays.

“But what may seem as a bit of harmless fun can easily get out of hand in a very short space of time.

“What is concerning is that despite this tree suffering a significant amount of damage, no-one thought to call the fire and rescue service, meaning that this fire had the potential to become a much bigger incident and caused even more damage or even cause injury to someone.

“That is why this summer outreach work is so important, and we hope as many youngsters as possible are able to come along to one of the planned visits.”

The events will be held from 2 to 5pm at Bennetts Field on August 19 and 26, from 2 to 5pm at the pump track on August 21 and 28 and from 2pm to 5pm at Horsham Park (near the skate park side of the park) on August 16, 23 and 30.

The fire service spokesman added: “If you have concerns about a young person’s behaviour and believe they could be at risk of starting a fire you can contact West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s FireWise team on 0330 2222 515 or email firewise@westsussex.gov.uk.”

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