By Angela Frewin
Arsonists are still costing the hospitality industry millions of pounds every year, but new figures from the Home Office suggest they have cooled down their activities slightly.
Of the 5,800 fire outbreaks recorded for hotels, restaurants, pubs and hostels in 1996, about 1,550 (or 27% of the total) were regarded as malicious, against a third in 1995. 1996 is the latest year for which figures have been made available.
Lancashire was the top hotspot for arson attacks, with88 in 1996, followed by East Sussex (53) and Staffordshire (32).
The Fire Protection Association calculates that fire cost the leisure industry over £113m between 1992 and 1996, when more than 25,000 blazes each causing at least £50,000-worth of damage were reported, along with 2,200 casualties.
Arsonists alone cost the trade more than £35m during this period. Most were opportunistic vandals, but other culprits included burglars trying to hide their tracks and people nursing personal grievances. Fires are also sparked by smoking materials (which cost the leisure trade £20m during the five-year period), electrical faults (which accounted for one in five incidents), and kitchen fires.
- This year's Fire Safety Week runs from 28 September to 3 October.