Our Fire Crime Unit at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, works to reduce deliberate fire setting in the community while also promoting public safety and partnership working. Our Fire Crime team includes several Fire Crime practitioners who work across the 10 Unitary Authorities we serve.
They are responsible for:
The use of high visibility patrols in the community are tactics regularly used by many of our partners. SWFRS are now also using patrols to deter those considering committing an act of arson or anti-social behaviour. As well as our very visible vehicles, bikes are also being used to ensure we can reach the areas which our motor vehicles cannot. Patrols are carried out by our Fire Crime Unit staff and provide advice and reassurance to communities where there are concerns about arson. These new tactics provide valuable opportunities for us to engage with the public.
Vacant properties can provide opportunities for illegal activities and trespassing. Although empty and often in a neglected state, they can still a pose a risk to the area they are located. These properties should be cleared of all dangerous and hazardous items e.g. LPG Cylinders and chemicals.
South Wales Fire Service will submit an arson vulnerability assessment following a fire at a site or property or after a routine survey of the area. Our staff will identify issues which can affect firefighting safety. This information is forwarded to our Fire Safety and Fire Control.
Abandoned cylinders can be a hazard to the public and to firefighters. The Fire Crime Unit will make sure all abandoned cylinders which are reported to us are removed.
It has become increasingly apparent that there is a distinct link between arson attacks and domestic violence. The Fire Crime Unit is working closely with partners within the Police and Local Authority to ensure victims feel safer in their own homes.
This may include the installation of letterbox blanking plates, additional smoke alarms and assistance, if required, in creating a ‘safe room’.
Attendance at Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARACs) ensures we work collaboratively with partner agencies and that Fire Crime Unit Practitioners are able to make arrangements to visit a property when an urgent case of domestic violence is identified. There is also a referral process which enables agencies to refer victims into the Fire Crime Unit if it is believed they could be at risk of arson. Fire Crime Practitioners will then contact victims to arrange visits.
We continue to raise awareness within South Wales Fire and Rescue Service of issues surrounding domestic violence and hate crime and its impact on our organisation and the communities we serve.
A significant part of the role of a Fire Crime Practitioner is to plan and prepare for periods of time during the year, when demand and risk may be increased. Their intervention can include developing safety campaigns and community engagement events and activities to share important safety messages, or setting up patrols or diversionary activities within the community to educate the public.
Examples include ‘Operation Bernie’ which is implemented at the beginning of our year for seasonal activities, starting in March and sometimes lasting up until summer. This covers the period also known as ‘Grass Fire Season’ when we can see deliberate fires increase massively in certain areas where people light deliberate grass fires. Towards the end of the year ‘Operation Bang’ takes place around Halloween and Bonfire night, a time when we often see an increase in deliberate fires such as refuse fires and bonfires.
Fast track referrals are usually used at times during ‘Operation Bernie’ or ‘Operation Bang’. Fast track referrals are part of the Fire Setting Intervention Scheme which is a scheme developed for deliberate fire setters. Fast Track referrals are made when someone is caught starting a fire or is involved in the act. A PCSO will take the details of the individual and refer them to the scheme. The individual will then be contacted within 48 hours and is expected to participate in the process.