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101 deliberate prison cell fires in JUST one year

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Prison cell fires have doubled in Staffordshire in 12 months and have cost the cash-strapped fire service around £70,000 to deal with in six years.

In 2015/2016 there were 101 fires in the county's eight jails — an average of two a week. Staffordshire has eight prisons including HMP Featherstone near Wolverhampton and HMP Stafford which are both Category C male prisons.

All the fires were deliberate.

That has shot up by 50 from the previous year.

Other prisons included in the figures are HMP Brinsford in Featherstone, HMP Dovegate near Uttoxeter, HMP Drake Hall near Eccleshall, HMP Oakwood in Featherstone, HMP Swinfen Hall and HMP Werrington.

The fire service has warned that the risk of cell fires is extremely high and could easily result in prisoners being killed due to the dangers of inhaling fumes.

Paul Shaw, technical fire safety lead at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "A cell fire has the potential to place all relevant people in significant danger.

"A fire started in a prison cell will produce toxic fumes and smoke which can not be avoided due to the products of combustion.

"A fire has the potential to produce large quantities of carbon monoxide with fatal consequences.

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"During a cell fire an average adult can inhale a fatal amount of carbon monoxide in less than one minute.

"A prison has been designed as a secure unit to prevent uncontrolled egress, therefore the means of escape are both restricted and complex in their design.

"A fire has the potential to affect the means of escape for all relevant persons, placing all concerned at significant risk of harm.

"Fire crews are placed at significant risk when mobilising, attending and dealing with this type of incident."

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There have been 274 cell fires since 2010 started by a cigarette lighter or electrical cables. Each attendance costs around £250 to deal with.

But the fire service is powerless to do anything to prevent the problem at the moment as they have no jurisdiction over prisons which are instead governed by fire inspectors on the Crown Premises Inspection Group

In March a smoking ban was introduced in four prisons, although none in Staffordshire, and it is hoped if the Government press ahead with intentions to roll out the ban to all jails it will help reduce fires substantially.

Mr Shaw added: "A close working relationship has been developed with the HMP Fire Safety Inspector for Staffordshire, this relationship will give us an understanding of what their issues are and how we can support HMP and use our expertise in communicating Fire Safety under challenging conditions."

The fire service in Staffordshire needs to save £1.43million in this financial year.

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