Arsonists as young as six behind Norfolk fires

Children as young as six have been targeted by an intervention programme which aims to stop arsonists in Norfolk from starting fires, it has been revealed.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service chiefs said the number of fires caused by arsonists this year has tumbled compared to the same period last year and said its fire setters intervention programme had helped deal with the problem.

Provisional figures show that the service went to 408 arson fires between April and September this year, compared to 885 in the same period last year and 838 in 2010/11.

Chief fire officer Nigel Williams said: 'This is a significant improvement which can be attributed to a balance between an increased focus on arson reduction, such as working closely with the police to identify perpetrators and reduce the risk of arson at premises.'

He said the wet weather this year had also played its part in reducing the amount of arson, but also highlighted the fire setters programme.

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He said: 'The programme targets people of all ages who deliberately start fires and aims to stop them from doing it again. The service receives referrals from youth offending teams, community services, the police, young offenders institutes, mental health organisations and occasionally from parents. Post intervention re-offending rates are very low.'

He said since April, 13 interventions had been completed and another six were due to take place, with the youngest child to take part just six-years-old.

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As part of its effort to combat arson, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has enlisted the aid of a three-year-old cocker spaniel named Ben.

The dog, which has its own harness and boots, is the service's first accelerant detection dog and has been trained to sniff out whether fires have been started deliberately.

The Norfolk fire service is one of 17 in the country which has a fire investigation dog .

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