Holidays bring arson fears

CLECKHEATON’S fire station commander is calling for young people to keep away from the town’s derelict buildings this summer – before someone is seriously hurt.

The school holidays usually bring a surge of emergency calls – the old Harrison Gardner’s factory in Hightown and the derelict Maccess site on Spen Lane being particular targets for arsonists.

During the past 12 months firefighters have been called 17 times to the Harrison Gardner site and just last week they were tackling a blaze at Maccess.

Station Commander Mark Hitchcock said: “It’s that time of year again when school’s out for summer and we tend to see an increase in deliberate fires around derelict and unoccupied buildings in Cleckheaton, as well as an increase in rubbish fires, bin fires and grass fires.

“The temptation for children and young people to enter and explore these sites is one which concerns me greatly. Firefighters have been called to fires at these premises on a number of occasions recently and I believe it’s only a matter of time before a member of the public or a firefighter is seriously injured.

“Please be aware that there are very real safety issues involved, as well as legal implications, if people enter such buildings. I would also ask all residents to be vigilant and report immediately to the police if you suspect unauthorised people are entering the site or committing arson.

“Remember that while firefighters are tackling a deliberately started fire at one of these premises, they are unavailable to attend other life-threatening incidents, which means crews from further afield have to be called in.”

Mr Hitchcock is also appealing to eagle-eyed members of the community to report any suspicious activity they see around the properties and of any other arson.

He has sent letters to residents in the areas appealing for their co-operation and warning of the dangers.

Community safety staff have also visited schools in the run-up to the summer holidays to speak to children about the hidden dangers in derelict buildings.