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Arsonist is hunted after spate of fires; Community is put at risk by vandals.

Byline: By Dave Black

AN arson spree in a Northumberland seaside village has sparked a warning that fireraisers are putting the local community, 999 crews and themselves in danger.

Almost 20 firefighters spent more than two hours battling to control a blaze which was started deliberately in the disused Vald Birn UK iron foundry in Cambois on Monday night.

Crews from Blyth, Ashington and Cramlington arrived to find flames shooting through the roof of the empty factory's former office block, and had to be careful because of the risk of propane gas cylinders exploding during the operation.

They managed to prevent the blaze from spreading to the rest of the factory, which closed with the loss of 157 jobs in April last year.

A joint fire service and police investigation is being carried out but there were signs of a forced entry and it is virtually certain that the fire was started deliberately.

Yesterday it emerged that the incident is the third suspected arson attack in Cambois in the last seven days, following suspicious fires at an ornamental stone business and an outbuilding containing a caravan.

Northumberland fire and rescue service said those responsible would be hunted down because they are putting firefighters and themselves at risk of harm.

They are also threatening the wider community safety by diverting 999 resources away from other incidents.

Cramlington-based station officer Ian Wilkinson, who was in charge of Monday night's operation, said: "We have got to be concerned about the fact that this is the third deliberate fire in the immediate area in the past seven days. It is possible they are unrelated but there is certainly a concern that a pattern is emerging here and that someone is going around setting fires in Cambois.

"If people are going into boarded-up buildings to set fires then they are clearly putting themselves in quite a bit of danger because fires can spread very quickly and trap them.

"In Monday night's incident our crews could have been at risk because there were gas cylinders in the vicinity of the fire. In addition, people involved in arson are having an effect on the local community by diverting fire services resources away from where they are needed. Arson is a very serious offence."

Dave Myers, the fire service's arson task force manager, said: "There have been a number of fires in the Cambois area which have been identified as arson. We are working very closely with the police, watching the situation and any further incidents will be fully investigated by both services to try to secure evidence at the scene. We are investigating whether the incidents are linked and pooling our resources to try to prevent any more.

"We would ask anyone with information about the incidents to contact their local police."

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GUTTED: The Vald Birn factory in Cambois which was targeted by an arsonist.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 12, 2007
Words:480
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