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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Schools 'need fire security staff'
Widey Court Primary School
Firefighters dealt with two blazes at Widey Court School
Schools in Devon with a history of arson attacks are being told to consider hiring night watch security staff if the strike by firefighters goes ahead.

The Department for Education and Skills (DFES) has sent a letter to all schools warning cover provided by military firefighters "will be thinly spread and will give priority to saving life".

Two Plymouth schools have been targeted by arsonists over the past fortnight.

Widey Court Primary School and St Boniface College both had fires in mobile classrooms which investigators believe were suspicious.

'Irreplaceable' paperwork

The incidents have raised concerns that schools could be vulnerable during the planned strikes.

The series of strikes is being held as part of a campaign by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) for a pay rise of 40%.

Green Goddess
Devon is expected to get 12 Green Goddesses

The DFES says schools should open as normal but those with a history of arson attacks should think about employing night security staff.

Schools are also encouraged to protect "irreplaceable paperwork and computer files" by placing them in fire-resistant stores.

Fears heightened

The Secondary Heads Association has responded by calling for the government to provide funds to meet the extra security costs.

The Association said: "We agree completely with the advice, but schools simply do not have the sort of money available to do it."

Schools' fears will be heightened by concerns raised by Devon's new Arson Task Force that arson incidents could increase during a strike, as happened when the last national stoppage occurred in 1977.


Schools simply do not have the sort of money available to meet extra security costs.

Secondary Heads Association
The Task Force has written to all businesses around the county advising them to make sure their premises are not an easy target for arsonists by removing rubbish and stacks of boxes and papers, and ensuring that buildings are well secured.

Green Goddesses

But Task Force spokesman Pete Sandell said officers would continue working and remain vigilant during a strike, with any suspicious fires being vigorously investigated.

It is expected Devon will have 12 Green Goddess fire engines to cover the county if the strike goes ahead.

That figure has not been confirmed by the Ministry of Defence, but is based on estimates from individual fire brigades.

The county has also been allocated five breathing tenders which provide breathing equipment not available on the Green Goddesses, while one 'regional equipment support team' will provide other tools fitted on a normal fire engine.

Devon, however, is considered better placed than other areas to cope with the strike because of the county's high number of retained firefighters, who are not planning to strike.


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21 Oct 02 | England
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