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Arson fires

Information about how to prevent arson attacks.

Last year we attended 461 deliberate fires in West Sussex. These fires endanger lives and can delay us from attending serious incidents.

Arson is the largest, single cause of fire attended by fire services across the country.

Arson often starts with a fascination for fire and progresses to lighting small fires. However, in time this can escalate onto skips, cars, derelict properties and more importantly, people's homes.

We all have a part to play in combating arsonists by taking simple safety precautions to ensure our homes and businesses are not vulnerable to deliberate fires.

Disposing of waste

Waste is a ready source of fuel and can provide temptation to deliberately start a fire. Fires involving waste can quickly spread, often to nearby homes and buildings and cause significant damage. Therefore:

  • only put waste and recycling containers out on collection days
  • if you miss a waste collection, report it to your local council
  • never store waste, or anything that can catch alight, in corridors, stairwells or escape routes
  • keep communal bin stores secure
  • store recycling containers a safe distance from buildings
  • ensure your skips have metal covers and are not overloaded, they should also be removed when full
  • don’t stack flammable waste against or near your building.

Security measures

  • One of the best ways to prevent arson is making sure your property is secure, including any derelict buildings.
  • Lock gates and secure all vehicles when not in use.
  • Keep entry points to buildings secure, including sheds or garages, perimeter walls, fencing and gates.
  • Prevent intruders and trespassing by making sure perimeters and buildings are well maintained and any damage is repaired as soon as possible.
  • Consider installing security systems such as CCTV, alarms and security lighting.
  • Keep any flammable substances stored safely and securely, not left in the open.
  • Consider fitting a fire reduction letterbox.

On the streets

Dumped waste and abandoned vehicles are common targets for arsonists. Oil spills from the vehicle can also produce toxic smoke in a fire so it is important these are collected whenever possible. You can help by reporting it to your local council.

Worried about a young person setting fire?

Young people may play with fire for various reasons, such as a natural curiosity or seeking attention. Without help and guidance, fire-setter behaviour can escalate and lead to more serious consequences.

Our team of specialist fire advisors are available to visit schools, homes or other establishments and they can give guidance to parents, carers and professionals who may be concerned about a child or young person playing with fire. Further information is available on our FireWise web page.

Additional information

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) have put together leaflets, aimed at residents and businesses, on the best ways to prevent arson attacks.

Contact details

You can report suspicious behaviour online to Crimestoppers or by phone on 0800 555 111, or online to Sussex Police or by phone on 101.

Always call 999 in an emergency.

Last updated:
21 June 2022
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