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Serial arsonists put lives at risk

FIRE crews were so stretched when arsonists started a series of fires that the borough was left without any cover.

FIRE crews were so stretched when arsonists started a series of fires that the borough was left without any cover.

A leading Hyndburn firefighter said lives were put at risk by the arsonists, who kept all the borough's firefighters busy when they lit three fires on Monday night.

Sub-officer Gary Ibbitson, of Hyndburn Community Fire Station, said the consequences could have been catastrophic.

He said: "The three fires all happened around 2am and at that time we had no cover in Accrington."

"If we had got something like a house fire the next watch would have come from Blackburn. And it would have meant a delay that could have been disastrous."

"It takes them about 10 minutes from Blackburn whereas it takes us two or three minutes, and that is the difference between someone surviving or not."

Police were brought in to trace the arsonists who destroyed two cars and a bin.

Mr Ibbitson said two of the fires, which occurred in Oswaldtwistle, might have been started by someone walking home drunk from a pub.

Crews extinguished the first blaze in a bin on a lamppost in Frederick Street at 1.40am and 20 minutes later were called to a private garage at the back of Union Road.

A Renault Clio on a trailer had been torched, totally destroying it.

At 2.10am a Vauxhall Cavalier in Nuttall Street, Accrington, was also totally destroyed by fire.

Mr Ibbitson stressed the car fires were probably unrelated.

Sergeant Claire Holbrook, of Accrington Police, said: "Deliberately-caused fires can cause our colleagues in the Fire Brigade to be depleted at critical times. It's obvious that if they are too stretched it can lead to serious injuries or even death if they are not able to deliver the much-valued service."

"If injuries do happen in such circumstances the arsonists will surely have to bear some of the responsibility. Although cover could come from Blackburn, vital minutes could be lost."


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist