ARSON attacks in Ellesmere Port and Neston have soared dramatically, sparking an appeal for help from concerned community leaders.
At the weekend there were two serious attacks on buildings – including the torching of a £1m youth centre – and last month alone there was nearly 50 deliberate fires, which was the highest surge in the county.
In response, the fire service, police and MP Andrew Miller are appealing for information from the public to help catch the culprits.
On Sunday at 5.50am a refuse bin was set alight at the back of Neston Community and Youth Centre, causing serious damage to the roof and the outside of the building.
Police have examined CCTV footage of the area and are keen to identify a male wearing a light-coloured top and bottoms who was seen acting suspiciously in the area at the time.
Fire crews were also called to an arson attack at the old Ellesmere Port Sea Cadets base in John Street at 12.14pm on Friday.
The two incidents come after a rabbit hutch was torched last month, killing the animals inside, at St Mary of the Angels Primary School and Little Angels Childcare, Little Sutton.
Ellesmere Port Fire Station manager Colin Heyes said: “This sort of crime is extremely dangerous, often putting the lives of the public and firefighters at considerable risk.
“It also takes up a lot of valuable time and resources. We would therefore urge anyone with information about this sort of behaviour to report it.”
Insp Peter Case said: “This is an issue that we take extremely seriously. These types of fire pose a real threat to people and properties.
“Whoever is setting these deliberate fires needs to realise the impact of their actions as they could potentially be putting the lives of residents at risk.
“What initially might seem like a bit of harmless fun could have tragic consequences.”
Mr Miller said: “The purpose of getting together was to appeal to the public to come forward with information about a series of fires, particularly the nasty event at the nursery where the animals died.
“There must be someone in the community who knows the possible culprits. Our plea is ‘come forward and help us’.
“You can come forward anonymously to me or ideally to the police or fire service.”
Residents and businesses are urged not to pile up rubbish close to buildings and should store away all wheelie bins, especially at night.
If you have any information about a recent arson attack, call the police on 0845 458 0000 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.