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Kent Fire and Rescue release shocking poster to put young people off starting fires
A Kent firefighter who sustained horrific burns while tackling a blaze at Dartford Heath is using his experience – and shocking pictures of his injuries – to warn youngsters about the dangers of starting fires.
Mat Barney received serious burns to his arms and face while dealing with a grass fire at the Heath in 2005. He now hopes that a new poster showing graphic photographs of his injuries, will dissuade potential arsonists and help to crackdown on incidents of deliberate fires across Kent.
Recalling the terrifying incident, Mat said: “We were there as a relief crew and there was lots of rubbish so we think a petrol can exploded and sent a jet of flames into my face. It was so intense, I was suddenly disorientated and fell over some more rubbish onto the scorched ground. The pain was excruciating.
“People don’t realise how quickly a fire can flare up or change direction and if an experienced firefighter like me can be affected, so can those who start them and they can easily be killed.”
The poster will be displayed in certain parts of Kent – including areas around Dartford Heath – where there have been a large number of deliberate fires.
Dartford Fire Station Manager Phil Rice said: “We thank Mat for agreeing to publicise his experiences because his story is a simple and shocking example of what fire can do.
“This poster is part of an ongoing campaign which has also seen fire crews out in the local community, our education team has been visiting local schools and Dartford Borough Council has been carrying our regular patrols of the open land.
“We are pleased to report that the number of incidents on the heath has actually fallen in the past month after we initially experienced a sudden increase earlier in the summer. However, we can’t afford to be complacent and will continue to tackle this by warning culprits that they face fines or several years in jail – possibly a life sentence if someone is killed as a result of their actions.”
Mat, who works at Sittingbourne Fire Station, added: “The youngsters who are doing this might think it’s harmless fun but fire can spread so fast and cause massive amounts of destruction. It also diverts our valuable resources from other incidents and puts firefighters’ lives at risk. I hope this poster shocks people into thinking twice.”
The general public can help by following some important safety tips to prevent fires starting in the first place:
• Don't light fires in the countryside or drop litter which could be set fire to
• Don't accumulate rubbish which can act as potential fuel for deliberate fire setters
• Keep matches and lighters out of the way of young people (especially young children) and remind them that they are not toys
• If you are a parent you are strongly advised not to leave youngsters to wander in the countryside unsupervised. Ensure that they are aware of the dangers of fire
• Report any information on fire setting activities and those responsible (anonymously if need be) to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
• Contact your local district or borough council to ask about disposal of unwanted furniture, or to report abandoned vehicles or fly tipped waste (Clean Kent 24 hour reporting line – 0845 345 0210)