A RISE in the number of car fires in the area seemingly coincided with the fall in the cost of scrap metal - a fire chief has claimed.

Arson figures were being discussed by West Yorkshire Fire Authority at a meeting on Friday, when members were shown trends since 2010.

Figures from 2010 to 2019 show that there was a large rise in “primary arsons” across West Yorkshire between 2014/15 and 2015/16. This was mainly down to a big increase in vehicle fires, and the number of vehicle fires has remained high ever since.

Chris Kirby, Area Manager, said: “There was a big increase in vehicle fires then, and that seems to increasingly correlate with the reduction in scrap metal costs, particularly the cost of vehicle scrap metal.”

The report to the committee said gang crime was another major factor in this rise, and that: “The conviction rate for such criminal acts is very low due to the burden of evidence.”

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Car fires make up the majority of primary arson incidents that firefighters are called to each year.

Links to scrap metal costs were not the only interesting correlations the meeting discussed.

The authority’s Community Safety Committee also heard about recent trends in secondary arsons - which involve rubbish, bins and grass fires.

At a meeting last month, the authority heard that young people were behind many of these fires.

Mr Kirby told members the number of secondary fires plummeted between 2011/12 and 2012/13. He said this could be down to the fact that young people had something else to keep busy with instead of playing with matches. He added: “Around that time there was an explosion in the number of hand held devices named by younger children.”

The number of secondary arsons has increased since that year, and in 2018/19 was at its highest level since 2011. Fires involving vegetation and rubbish made up 76 per cent of all secondary arsons.

The committee was told that warm weather had led to a large rise in secondary arsons last year. In 2018/19 there were 6,197 such incidents - up from 5,198 the previous year.

Mr Kirby gave members some positive news - he said so far this academic year the number of secondary arsons is down compared to the previous year.

Since April there has been 1,650 secondary arsons across West Yorkshire - down from 2,210 at this point last year. He added: “This is going in the right direction - it is much improved compared to where we were last year.”