Agenda item


To consider report CFO/063/19 informing the Authority of the outcomes and success of Bonfire period 2019 and the ongoing challenge of deliberate secondary fires.


Appendix A will be presented by Group Manager Ben Ryder at the start of this report.




Members considered Report CFO/063/19 of the Chief Fire Officer, concerning the outcomes of the 2019 Bonfire Period.


Members were provided with a presentation in support of this report, by Group Manager Ben Ryder, which highlighted the 2019 Bonfire Period outcomes and performance; and how those outcomes were achieved by staff.


Members were provided with an overview of the Arson Reduction Strategy 2017-20, devised due to the prevalence of arson, high deprivation; and high levels of serious and organised crime. Members were informed that a focus of the Strategy is around working with Merseyside Police and other partners; and that during the Bonfire Period, MFRS don’t do anything different, we simply increase our level of activity.


The presentation highlighted to Members that during the 2019 Bonfire Period, there was a 33.61% reduction in the number of ASB fires.

They were advised that there was 7 violence at work incidents during the period, which represents a reduction on the previous year, although a number of those incidents involved significant damage.

Members were informed that there was 47.5 tonnes of bonfire material removed across Merseyside over the period; and a total of 105 target hardening visits undertaken to support some of the most vulnerable individuals within our communities.

With regards to firework incidents, Members were informed that there was a total of 16 reported, however the severity of some of those incidents was high, resulting in life changing injuries. Members were advised that this issue will be considered further for next year.


The presentation went on to provide Members with some contextual figures regarding deliberate secondary fires during Bonfire periods, over the past 10 years. Members were advised that with the exception of 2013, 2019 has seen the lowest number of such incidents, with a total of 243 recorded. They were advised that the low number of incidents recording during 2013, was a result of the conscious decision to stack calls, due to the reduction in the number of appliances during that year.


With regards to how the performance was achieved, Member were informed that a funded social media campaign was ran over this year’s Bonfire Period, which reached approximately 700,000 people. It was noted that this level of contact could not be achieved through staff on the ground alone; and that the use of social media to promote safety messages, will be a useful form of engagement moving forward.


The presentation provided Members with an overview of performance for each local authority area.


With regards to the Knowsley District, Members were advised that there was a good reduction in incidents during the Bonfire Period, on the previous year. They were informed that the Knowsley Street Intervention Team was deployed into high demand areas; and a new Crime and Communities Team was established within the District, with significant funding provided to tackle anti-social behaviour (ASB).

Members were also advised that although MFRS do not have certain powers to have an impact on ASB, through working closely with partners who do have the necessary powers, dispersal zones were enforced within Whiston and Prescot; and 2 youths identified as setting deliberate fires within hotspot areas, were issued with ABC’s (Acceptable Behaviour Contracts).


With regards to the Liverpool District, Members were informed that a significant reduction in incidents (28.4%) was observed this year. Members were advised that the Liverpool Street Intervention Team was deployed into high demand areas; and that £3,500 of funding was provided by Liverpool City Safe, which was utilised to run the social media campaign. They were also informed that Liverpool City Council dedicated to assisting with the removal of bonfire material, the large scale – River of Light event took place; and a total of 22 ABC’s were issued.


Members were informed that the best performance in terms of reduction in incidents (66.1%), was observed within the Sefton District. They were advised that within the District, the Street Intervention Team was again deployed into high demand areas; and environmental issues are high on the agenda. Members were advised that a large scale fireworks display took place on Bonfire night, dispersal zones were put in place within a number of areas; and correspondence was sent to an individual known for fire setting, to advise them that they would be watched during the period. 


In relation to the St. Helens District, Members were informed that it was the only District to see an increase in incidents (20.7%) on the previous year’s figures. Members were advised that there is no Community Safety Partnership within the St. Helens District, which makes it more difficult for MFRS to engage with statutory partners. Members were also informed that there was an increase in the number of incidents within the town centre area of St. Helens; and that the incident hotspots for 2019, were different to the hotspots for previous years. However, Members were advised that there was some good work within the District, such as the “Sparks in the Park” event, held on Bonfire night.


Cllr Preston commented that she would raise the issue around Community Safety Partnership, within St. Helens Council; and the Chief Fire Officer also confirmed that he would be discussing the matter with the Chief Executive of St. Helens Council, commenting that agencies become more effective when they work together.


With regards to the Wirral District, Members were informed that there was a significant reduction in the number of incidents (52.4%). They were advised that 21 tonnes of bonfire material was removed during the period; and were informed of the involvement of the Probations Services Community Payback Team. Members were also informed that the Environment is also high on the agenda for Wirral Council; and that planning meetings within Wirral are jointly chaired by MFRS and Merseyside Police.

The presentation highlighted to Members that deliberate secondary fires predominantly occur in high demand areas – areas which also have high levels of deprivation, lower life expectancy; and are also priority areas for our partners.


Members were informed that our staff on the ground are actively targeting these areas with HFSC’s and target hardening initiatives, to help build relationships and community cohesion; and start to have a preventative impact.


However, Members were also advised that one area MFRS have not been cognisant of up to now, is around the environment, which is becoming a high priority for the local authorities. It was highlighted to Members, that areas with the lowest levels of recycling, tend to be the worst areas for deliberate secondary fires; and as such, a behavioural change around recycling is required and needs to be considered at a policy level, which is something that MFRS need to consider how they can engage with moving forward.


Members were advised that the Chief Fire Officer is the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) Lead for Children and Young People; and although youth engagement activity is not statutory for fire and rescue services, the impact that it can have on the community is massive. They were informed that the value of youth engagement is more its social value in terms of outcomes for the community, rather than financial value.

Members were advised that during the Bonfire Period this year, Princes Trust students assisted with the staffing of tipper trucks, which saved MFRA almost £4k in staff costs.


In terms of further improvements moving forward, Members were advised of some ideas and comments raised during the Bonfire de-brief. They were informed of plans to engage better with the British Transport Police, with regards to individuals travelling and being involved in ASB; and to have separate tipper trucks for Knowsley and St. Helens. Members were also advised that there will be an increase in social media messaging around the risk of injury from firework misuse; and wider use of other social media platforms such as Instagram and the new MFRS Website, to try to engage as widely as possible. A further area that will be progressed, is the development of a new educational video, which will be co-produced with partners. 


Members were informed that since the Arson Strategy was launched in 2017, it has had a significant impact on the number of deliberate secondary fires, which is the largest incident type. It was highlighted to Members that the substantial reduction in this type of incident, has enabled a significant amount of time to be put back into the system, which can be used for positive preventative work.


Members were informed that for the current financial year, the number of deliberate secondary fires is over 1000 below the target figure.

Members were provided with a breakdown of the approximate time and resources required to attend an average deliberate secondary fire; and were informed that on average, this equates to approximately 1 hour and 26 minutes per incidents. It was therefore highlighted that a reduction of over 1000 deliberate secondary fires, enables a significant amount of time to be put back into the system for positive activity, in addition to a reduced impact on operational response times.


Members were also informed of the positive impact that the reduction in deliberate secondary fires has on the community. The economic impact of fire was highlighted to Members, with it estimated that on average, the economic cost of each deliberate secondary fire is around £3,009. Therefore, a reduction of 1,185 such incidents, equates to an economic saving of over £3.5m. It was therefore highlighted to Members that the social value of MFRA prevention work is massive and should be noted.


The presentation went on to inform Members that a public health approach is now being taken towards reducing serious and organised crime across Merseyside, predicated on the “4 P’s” approach – Prepare, Prevent, Pursue, Protect. Members were informed that the aim is to create a behavioural change within communities, through the development of Place Based Plans within local authority areas, utilising a whole systems approach. Members were informed that through implementation of the strategy, MFRS are able to have different conversations with residents through regular arson campaigns in high demand areas; and to forge different relationships through our youth engagement provision, which have resulted in a change in behaviour of residents within our communities. As a result, MFRA are a key stakeholder in the development of those Place Based Plans.


Members were also informed of the introduction of a Violence Reduction Unit within Merseyside, with MFRA staff now embedded within that unit; and the 100 day Nesta Challenge, which is trialling different ways of working. Members were advised that these are 2 area in which MFRA staff are involved in driving positive outcomes for communities.


With regards to the impact of the Arson Reduction Strategy, Members were advised that there have been year on year reductions in the number of deliberate secondary fires, whilst continuing to successfully deliver every other area of preventative work.


Members thanked GM Ryder for a very informative and positive presentation.


The Chief Fire Officer also informed Members that the activity highlighted within the presentation, is the reason we achieved an “outstanding” in the recent HMICFRS Inspection in relation to preventing fires and other risks, which recognises our investment in people. They were also informed that although the economic cost of fire can be quantified, the significant impact on the community cannot. It was also noted that we are the only FRA in the UK delivering targeted interventions in the way that MFRA are.


Members Resolved that:


The reduction and organisational gains outlined in the presentation, be noted.



Supporting documents: