Do you know of a wrecked or empty building that might attract arsonists?
We’re asking people to report derelict premises to the appropriate West Midlands council, so they can be boarded up and secured.The long-term trend for deliberate fires in derelict buildings is in sharp decline. They peaked in 2003/4 when, across our service area, there were 848 incidents recorded. This fell by nearly 88 per cent to 105 in 2018/19.
However, so far in 2019/20, we’ve recorded more than 70 such incidents. If this rate continues, we could see the highest number for two years.
That’s why we’re asking people to be our ‘eyes on the street’ and to let West Midlands councils know about buildings that need securing. You can do this via their websites or respective council ap
As well as needlessly tying up our fire crews and resources, deliberate fires in derelict buildings put our crews at extra risk. The buildings are often in very poor condition, littered with dangers such as discarded drugs needles, and can be covered by overgrown trees and bushes.
In June, a fire in a derelict property in Walsall required 27 of our fire engines and two aerial platforms over three days. It was the seventh incident we’d attended at the address.
“These buildings are a danger to anyone who ventures inside, whether that’s someone sleeping rough or kids breaking in and exploring for ‘fun’,” said Jim Marriott, one of our Station Commanders.
“Over the last 15 years we’ve seen a significant and continued fall in derelict building fires. There could be many reasons for this – fewer buildings becoming derelict, sites being better secured or demolished, and the availability of accommodation for rough sleepers.
“However, we are concerned by a rise in such fires this year. Our firefighters do a great deal of work to try to prevent such fires in the first place – for example, through their education work in schools – but we also need the public’s help in being our ‘eyes on the ground’.
“If you know of a derelict building in your neighbourhood, or one that’s empty, insecure or attracting anti-social behaviour, then please let the local council know.”
Our analysis of fires in derelict buildings shows that they tend to occur in the afternoon or evening, towards the end of the week, reaching a peak on Sundays. We share our data and mapping information with partners such as the police and councils so we can better target any joint efforts.
Derelict buildings are generally abandoned or neglected by the owner or occupier and, as a result, can attract crime, anti-social behaviour and rough sleepers.
Added Stn/Cdr Marriott: “Our response to such fires requires many resources, aside from the obvious emergency vehicles and crews. A fire control crew will handle the 999 call and manage the required attendance. We might also send a specialist team to investigate the cause of the fire. Such incidents often cause severe disruption in communities and to businesses.
“While we’re responding to these fires, we’re clearly not able to be out in our communities helping our most vulnerable residents to live safely, or businesses to be stronger.”