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Hampshire firefighters are swapping pumps for pedals this summer to help reduce arson in the New Forest.
The team from Hardley fire station are to commence joint patrols with the Police and Accredited Community Safety Officers (ACSO's) on pushbikes in the areas of the forest that have been targetted before.
Station Manager Mick Thompson said:
"Deliberate fire setting is a criminal activity, tying up valuable resources that may be needed for genuine emergencies, which puts peoples' lives at risk, wastes money, and in rural areas destroys precious natural habitat. Every year during the spring and summer, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service sees an increase in rural fires; many of these are started deliberately. Weekly bike patrols are another part of our pro-active strategy to inform and educate on the dangers of arson. Working with our partners from Hampshire County Council and Hampshire Constabulary, they will increase our presence and visibility in areas where we have experienced this problem, and allow us to interact with other forest users to help deliver this community safety message that arson is a dangerous, anti-social and illegal activity."
ACSO Team Leader Dean Birch said:
"It is hoped that this multi-agency approach will, with the assistance and support of the law abiding users of the forest, contribute to drastically reducing what has become an annual issue. It is difficult to measure reassurance, but residents should be reassured that the community safety partnership will do all it can to robustly deal with the perpetrators of these offences. This pro-active approach can hopefully reduce what alternatively is a very costly reactive response when a deliberate fire is set."
Inspector Alex Reading of Hampshire Constabulary added:
"Fire setting in the New Forest is an annual problem for us. We already work with the local community and partners to try to educate people about the dangers of deliberately starting fires, the risk it poses to wildlife, and the damage it causes to the countryside. This is an exciting new approach to the problem from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, in conjunction with the Accredited Community Support Officer team, which your local neighbourhood police officers fully support and will assist with. If you know who is deliberately starting fires then please let us know. Please help us to protect the beautiful area in which you all live and work."
In an emergency dial 999 OR for non emergency dial 101