HUNDREDS of fires caused by arson and bonfires were started deliberately in Hampshire during the first coronavirus lockdown, new figures have revealed.

Data from the Home Office has shown that Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service responded to 475 deliberate fires between April and June – an increase of 91 per cent on the 249 between January and March.

The figures include all fires thought or suspected to be intentional, including arson, and others such as bonfires and grassfires.

Hampshire Chronicle:

The figures have been met with concern from a Hampshire MP who said they have been left "speechless", adding that the lives of firefighters and the public are "in danger".

The figures have revealed that the fires resulted in four non-fatal casualties, of which two patients required hospital treatment.

Nationally, 239 non-fatal casualties from deliberate fires were recorded between April and June – along with eight deaths.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Fire and rescue services across England attended more than 20,000 deliberate fires during these three months, during which the toughest Covid-19 restrictions were imposed.

This was over 50 per cent more than they attended between January and March, and coincided with a period when firefighters were delivering food and medicine and giving support to the police and ambulance services.

MP for Southampton Itchen, Royston Smith, who was on the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority for 15 years and chairman for six, said: "The sort of people who would do this leave me speechless.

Hampshire Chronicle:

"They are putting fire fighter's and the public’s lives in danger and diverting resources away from where they should be.

"I am sure some of the people involved would claim to be bored but this is completely unacceptable and even more so during a pandemic."

Fire crews in Hampshire also had to deal with 801 non-fire incidents between April and June.

Most commonly, the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service attended entry or exit call-outs, which include assisting other emergency services in gaining access to a property, on 207 occasions.

The Home Office said it was grateful for the tireless efforts of firefighters across the country, particularly for their bravery and commitment during this pandemic.

A spokesman said: “Deliberate fires needlessly waste firefighters’ precious time and resources and enforcement action can be taken against those responsible."

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Hampshire Police were approached by the Daily Echo for a comment on the figures but they did not respond.