'Zero-tolerance' warning as crews drive down deliberate fire-setting at old Strathmartine Hospital

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by Andrew Burns

Firefighters have been praised for their efforts in driving down a shocking trend in deliberate fire-setting at a derelict hospital complex.

Since 2013, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service crews have been mobilised to tackle almost 30 deliberate fires at the old Strathmartine Hospital in Angus. One-third of these incidents took place during the spring and summer months of 2017.

The site, previously a hospital and orphanage for people with learning difficulties, has been empty for 15 years – and is a notorious spot for deliberate fires, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

However, following continued efforts of SFRS and Police Scotland colleagues, call-outs to the disused complex have fallen – and there have been zero incidents of fire at the site since September last year.

This also comes as deliberate secondary fires – those involving derelict buildings, refuse and grassland – also fell by 66 per cent across the wider Perth & Kinross, Angus and Dundee area.

Experienced firefighter Scott Symon welcomed this news but said there was no room for complacency.

The SFRS Station Manager for Angus said: “It absolutely goes without saying that we prefer to prevent fires – not fight fires.

“I am pleased to note this reduction, which follows significant multi-agency initiatives to educate the people on the dangers of deliberate fire-raising – but we will not become complacent.

“Make no mistake, the old Strathmartine complex has been a magnet for anti-social behaviour and fire-setting – especially for our young people during the spring and summer months – for a number of years now.

“Making the trip out to these old derelict buildings has been a right-of-passage for young people locally for more than a decade.

“Our crews, alongside Police Scotland colleagues, have worked tirelessly to educated kids on the very real dangers of simply entering these empty buildings – they are locked and boarded up for a good reason.

“And to deliberately start a fire inside these unsafe structures is not only reckless – it could lead to devastating consequences.”

SM Symon added: “It should be said, we’re not only talking about youths and anti-social behaviour at Strathmartine – the site is also frequented by a range of people, from photographers to urban explorers.

“We can’t emphasise enough the potential dangers of entering these unsafe structures – you are putting your life at risk, plain and simple.”

SM Symon was speaking as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service continues its #StampItOut Spring safety campaign.

It was recently revealed that firefighters across Scotland were called to tackle a shocking 1,824 deliberate fires in the space of just two months last year.

The veteran firefighter warned that SFRS will continue do everything in its power to help Police Scotland trace those risking the safety of communities.

He said: “Let me be very clear – we operate a strict zero tolerance approach to deliberate fire raising.

“We will continue to work very closely with our police and local authority partners to provide evidence that will ensure those responsible are identified and held to account.

“Deliberate fires are not only dangerous, but can also divert SFRS resources away from genuine emergencies where people require our help.”

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