Fire service staff will be blitzing Leeds in the run-up to Bonfire Night with a series of safety talks and action days in a bid to ensure the big day passes without incident.
Hundreds of school children across the district will benefit from safety talks in the run-up to 5 November so they are educated about the dangers of fireworks and fires. The brigade has also provided bonfire safety lesson plans to schools, so they can ensure all students are briefed on the dangers. Officers will also be delivering talks at community centres and youth groups in Middleton and Chapeltown.
On 5 November a community football event will be held at Ashton Park, Harehills, involving West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, West Yorkshire Police and the youth services. The aim of the event is to offer a sporting alternative to the local community on Bonfire Night which will hopefully reduce the incidences of arson and fire related injuries.
Fire prevention officers will also be out in force in a number of neighbourhoods around Leeds during the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night. They will be educating residents and community groups about the dangers of arson and keeping a lookout for rubbish which could be seen as fuel for fire setters.
Officers will be using the highly successful “Gone in a Flash” campaign again this year, which shows in graphic detail how fireworks and bonfires can wreck lives if not used responsibly.
Many local shops have also signed up to the „Strike Out? campaign, which means they will refuse to sell matches and lighters to anyone under the age of 18. While it has been illegal to sell cigarettes, tobacco and lighter refills containing butane to those under 18 since 2007, there are no such restrictions on matches and lighters, even though there is little justification for their purchase by children and young people.
The campaign, which was launched last year, is a voluntary scheme but many shops have agreed to participate.
Group Manager Mick Smith, Leeds District Commander, urged people to be vigilant during the bonfire period. Particularly, they should ensure wheelie bins and rubbish are not accessible to arsonists, and certainly not left next to buildings, to prevent the risk of fire spread.
Arson places a considerable strain on the fire and rescue service. Each deliberate fire costs the tax payer nearly £2,000. More importantly, they have the potential to spread, causing serious damage to property and even death.