Fire chiefs blast Mousehold Heath arsonists

Firefighters have criticised arsonists who started a string of blazes at Mousehold Heath over the weekend, warning people could have been killed by their idiotic actions.

Fire crews were called to the historic heath five times on Saturday and two more times yesterday, with 2,000 square metres of shrubland consumed by flames in the most serious blaze.

With conditions currently very dry throughout Norfolk the spate of deliberately started fires at Mousehold were a major headache for the city's firefighters.

The most serious blaze, near the heath's Vinegar Pond, happened just after 12.20pm on Saturday and the fire crew from Earlham and water carrier from Hethersett spent more than an hour putting it out.

Stuart Horth, head of community safety at Norfolk Fire and Rescue, said: 'We are very concerned about fires which are started deliberately, because of the danger to the public.

'And while we are attending those fires it means we have to bring other engines in from elsewhere to cover them, so it can stretch us. 'There's also the environmental damage and the threat to wildlife. Mousehold is a beautiful area and is used by a lot of people. This is a very dangerous thing to do and it can lead to loss of life.'

The spate of arsons has been reported to Norfolk police and Mr Horth said the public could play their part in preventing the blazes.

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He said: 'If people see someone they believe is starting a fire, we would encourage them to contact the police, because arson is a crime.'

Philip Hunter, from Vicarage Road, was one of the first to call the fire brigade after he spotted the blaze at the Vinegar Pond while on the heath with his girlfriend and children. He snapped the photograph shown here and said: 'The fire was really going for it and there were a number of us who had called the fire brigade.

'It spread really quickly and you could see the trees were going up because they were so dry.'

Fire chiefs reminded people that in the dry conditions, people should take extra care and issued the following advice:

Don't have a bonfire of any size during extended dry weather. This is particularly important in rural areas.

If you see a fire, ring 999 and ask for the fire and rescue service even for a small fire, it can very soon spread and get out of control.

Do not fill your fuel tank completely full during hot weather. Fuel must have room to expand.

Anyone planning to use fireworks or Chinese Lanterns is asked to exercise extreme caution in the current conditions as a stray firework or lantern is an obvious hazard.

• Thanks very much to reader Philip Hunter for sending us the photograph of the Mousehold Heath fire. If you snap a picture you think would be of interest to the Evening News send it to