Arson (deliberate fire setting) is a criminal offence that can lead to loss of life and injury. It can damage property and the environment. Arson has proven links with domestic abuse, terrorism, criminal activity, harassment, fraud and anti-social behaviour.
Arson accounted for 49.8% of all fires attended in 2017/18 by fire and rescue services in England, Scotland and Wales (204,426 fires attended; 101,809 deliberate). This is the largest, single cause of fire attended by fire and rescue services.
The reported economic cost of arson was £1.2 billion to £1.49 billion, with the potential real loss being between £5.73 billion and £11.46 billion.
If you have information on fires that have been started deliberately, call:
- Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
- Police on 101
The sections below offer some basic advice to help reduce the risk of arson where you live or work.
Make sure that rubbish doesn’t become a ready source of fuel for an arsonist by following these tips:
- Only put rubbish and recycling containers out on the day of collection.
- Never store rubbish, recycling or anything that can ignite in corridors, common areas, stairwells or escape routes.
- Ensure common areas such as bin stores are kept secure and well lit.
- Recycling containers should be stored a safe distance from buildings, both commercial and domestic if possible.
- Report fly-tipping or illegal waste to your local council who may be able to assist in its removal.
- Do not overload skips and get them removed once full. Make sure they are positioned away from the home or business if possible.
- Check our Wheelie Bin Fires factsheet (PDF, 221KB)
Parks and open spaces
Fires in parks and open spaces such as woodland, grassland, sports grounds and allotments can kill wildlife and cause widespread damage, as well as polluting the air with harmful products of combustion.
Tips for preventing fires in parks or open spaces:
- Take rubbish home with you or place in dedicated bins provided. Glass is particularly dangerous when left in direct sunlight.
- Discarded smoking materials cause many open space fires, particularly in the heat of summer. Dispose of items properly.
- Open fires and BBQs can be a significant hazard. Always follow local rules and guidance relevant to the space you are enjoying. Dispose of ash properly; local facilities will vary.
- Paths and tracks are effective fire breaks so they should be well maintained if you have responsibility for open spaces.
- Access for responding crews should be clear of vehicles and or vegetation.
- Calling for Fire Service assistance should be as quickly as possible and clear about your location. Landmarks, road names or topographical features help. The what3words app is an excellent tool for locating an open space incident and will help responding crews get there more effectively.
Arson can be devastating for any commercial business and lead to loss of production and subsequent unemployment. Nearly 60% of businesses never recover from a fire.
Tips for preventing fires in business locations:
- Ensure you have a suitable fire detection system, which is tested and maintained.
- Install or seek advice on additional security measures such as lighting, fencing or CCTV.
- Do not allow unauthorised persons to enter the premises.
- Ensure staff know what to do if they see any suspicious activity.
- Maintain good housekeeping of storage and waste areas.
- Ensure you have an up to date, suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment (if applicable). If you employ more than 5 employees or hold a licence (e.g. food) then you are required to have this written down.
- Develop a continuity plan for the event that you were subject to a fire, flood or an event which made your premises unsafe to use for a period of time. Could you continue to trade off site?
Find out more in the guide to making your premises safe from fire (PDF, 1.2MB).
The impact of a deliberate fire at a school goes far beyond the cost of repairs. Pupils may need to be moved and years of hard work by teachers and pupils could be lost or damaged.
Tips for preventing fires in schools:
- Report suspicious activity.
- Ensure school site has suitable security measures both physical and electronic as appropriate.
- Ensure waste containers are kept secure and away from main buildings.
- Ensure staff know what to do in the event of a fire with well-rehearsed actions.
Contact Fire Prevention Team if you have any concerns around fire setting. Find out more about the Firesetter Intervention Scheme: stopping a child's interest in fire.
If there is a credible threat of arson to a home, we can install fire reduction letterboxes. We will also carry out a Safer Home Visit at the same time.
You can contact Fire Business Support on 01473 260588 to speak to a duty fire safety officer from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Alternatively, you can find out more about fire safety in the home.