Arsonists ‘risk blaze’ at Portsmouth shops

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YOUTHS were spotted setting fire to telephone books near a shop and risking causing a major blaze firefighters have said.

Witnesses called police and firefighters after seeing three children at the back of Age Concern, Allaway Avenue, Paulsgrove, last night.

We could have potentially been looking at a building fire in a row of shops

Southsea firefighter

Burning telephone books were found at the back of the building when the crew arrived.

A spokesman at Southsea fire station said: ‘If there had been a window or some kind of air brick that allowed the heat and smoke in the building, we could have potentially been looking at a building fire in a row of shops.

‘When we put the fire out we were careful, looking with thermal camera and torches to make sure it hadn’t got in.

‘The police managed to clear the youths off a community centre roof.

‘By the time we got there the youths had moved on.’

A crew from Southsea was called at 9.19pm last night and spent an hour putting out the fire, and several other small blazes that had been set by the youths along the road.

When they went to check the surrounding area the crew spotted some children in the playground at the back of one of the schools.

The spokesman added: ‘Not only does it tie a fire engine up, which could be used for other things, it could damage property and cause a lot more damage than people realise.

‘Also, the people lighting them could get hurt, there’s a very serious chance they could get hurt.’

Separately, a crew was sent to extinguish a small fire in open grass at 7.37pm at the corner of Fratton Road and Manor Road.

Firefighters stamped on the small blaze to put it out.