Youths starting blazes stop fire crews going to serious incidents

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Canon Bob White with representatives of Portsmouth Churches Housing Association, Two Saints, Portsmouth Foyer and The Roberts Centre Picture: Vernon Nash

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LIVES could be lost – that’s the message from the fire services after a spate of blazes across Portsmouth.

The fires, thought to have been lit by youths, have stopped crews attending genuine call-outs – meaning the lives of those in genuine danger are being put at risk.

Crews from Havant and Fareham have been forced to come to the city to fight the fires.

And a number have been lit in Gosport.

One arson hotspot is Fraser Range, the derelict ex-navy training centre at Eastney.

This has led Southsea Fire Station upping the number of firefighters who attend call-outs.

Crews attended an incident there and were thrown stones at by the 30+ youths who had set a fire inside the building.

They were confrontational and set another fire after the arrival of the crew.

Jamie Wren, watch manager at Southsea Fire Station, said: ‘We had another call to Fraser Range that evening, so instead of sending one fire engine, we sent two.

‘There were no youths at the scene and it was a small fire, but as a result of our presence there, it meant we couldn’t send three of our appliances to calls of a fire in a high-rise apartment block in Southsea.

‘When there is a fire in such a building, the pre-determined attendance is five appliances. We were supposed to send three along with two from Cosham.

‘Because we were at Fraser Range and had to send more appliances than normal, we could only send one to the high-rise incident. Two went from Cosham and one had to come from both Havant and Fareham.

‘Because of the actions of those youths earlier on in the day, we weren’t able to respond properly to the later incident, which could have been life-threatening.

‘It took crews from Fareham and Havant longer to reach the destination than it would have done us, and when there’s a serious fire every second counts.

‘We want to highlight the damage that can be done here.

‘Teenagers might think it’s a bit of fun to set a few fires, but they’re putting other people’s lives at risk by taking up our time and resources.’

Since the start of the Easter holidays, fires have been set by youths in other areas.

Firefighters have been repeatedly called to blazes at Browndown in Gosport.

And the youths at Fraser Range are said to be there causing trouble most nights in big groups.

Stuart Toms, 40, owns the Spar on Fort Cumberland Road with his wife, near to Fraser Range.

He said: ‘This has been going on for months. There’s no security at Fraser Range and most evenings you get 30 to 40 kids hanging round there causing havoc.

‘I’ve e-mailed the owner of the building, QinetiQ, but nothing’s been done.’

A 25-year-old resident who lives nearby and wishes to remain anonymous, added: ‘What these kids are doing is awful. It’s selfish of them to be putting other people’s lives at risk by not letting firefighters respond to genuine calls for help.

‘I see fire engines at Fraser Range daily and it needs to stop but the police are tied because they can’t really do anything.’