Page last updated at 08:48 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 09:48 UK

Arson burns 40% of fire budget

Fire at the Gorteen House Hotel
A blaze at a derelict hotel in Limavady was one of many malicious fires

Malicious fires are costing the Fire and Rescue Service up to 40% of its budget each year, it has emerged.

Call-outs to deliberately-started fires have cost the service almost 150m over the past five years.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey revealed the figures to DUP MLA Simon Hamilton in a written assembly answer.

District commander Willie Lynch said he was not surprised by the figures. He said malicious fires were a problem across Northern Ireland.

"Obviously in some towns it is more serious than in others - we've seen in Limavady in the last six months the nature of the deliberate fires there which causes great concern.

"We in the service are working with the police to find out who's involved in this and are trying to bring them to book."

Last week, it emerged that fires in Limavady alone cost the taxpayer almost 500,000 in the last 18 months.

Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK where the Department of Health has responsibility for fire and rescue services, and Mr Hamilton said the 150m could have been better spent on frontline health services.

"The mindless behaviour of those responsible for these malicious incidents is costing millions of pounds and, most importantly, is putting the lives of many at risk," he said.

In the last financial year, it cost the Fire and Rescue Service more than 30m to tackle 14,114 malicious blazes.

Town fires cost taxpayer 500k
02 Jul 08 |  Foyle and West
70 'deliberate' fires in Limavady
13 Jun 08 |  Foyle and West
Spate of 22 arson attacks in town
07 Mar 08 |  Northern Ireland

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