A BOROUGH councillor has joined the fight against arsonists.
Ian Ormerod will join Ellesmere Port firefighters on duty next Wednesday in support of their campaign to reduce deliberate fires.
He is concerned that arson attacks account for almost three quarters of fire brigade call-outs in the town.
Cllr Ormerod said: 'Arson attacks are a blight on everyone. They come under anti-social behaviour, which I've been working with the authorities to help tackle.
'Next week I'll have the opportunity to see incidents first-hand. It's important councillors get to do things like this.
'We need some long-term strategy in place to tackle arson, including asking the courts to bring perpetrators to justice with tougher penalties.'
Cllr Ormerod (Lab, Strawberry Fields) said Ellesmere Port is one of the busiest fire stations in Cheshire, yet the work of its officers sometimes goes unnoticed.
He added: 'We should be praising them publicly for their excellent work as well as hitting home to the individuals causing problems that we're not just going to sit back and let them get away with it, but will bring them to justice.'
Figures show the number of fires started deliberately in homes, cars and rubbish bins has fluctuated since last year but seems to be slowing down.
In Ellesmere Port and Neston this April, there were 107 acts of arson, compared with 175 in April 2003.
This May, there were 99 such fires, compared with 101 in May 2003.
And for June this year, there were 124 deliberate fires, as opposed to 99 in June 2003.
Ben Bellis, community risk reduction officer with Cheshire Fire Service, said: 'Deliberate fires are currently running at average of 110 per month over the past three months.
'But these figures do not portray the real picture. Every time a fire appliance is sent to a deliberate fire, it impacts on the community.
'It reduces the fire cover in that area for the time it takes to deal with the deliberate fire and it puts firefighters and the public at risk.'
Station officer Bellis said: 'Deliberate fires account for almost 70% of Ellesmere Port station's turnouts.
'This puts the public in danger and has a detrimental effect on the community.
'It also shakes the confidence of communities and detracts from investment and we all end up paying increased insurance premiums.' He offered the following tips to help reduce arson:
Do not accept it as the norm;
Witnesses or anyone with information or suspicions about arson should call police on 01244 350222 or Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555111;
Report accumulations of combustible materials to the borough council's environment department;
Report abandoned vehicles on 0151 356 6557; and
Put your rubbish out on collection day, never earlier.