New partnership is helping to cut arson attacks

Picture of a burnt chair

The FIRE-P programme uses a hard-hitting video that shows the terrifying speed in which a fire can get out of control.

  • 16 December 2021
  • 3 min read

A partnership between the University of Portsmouth and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS) is being used to help cut arson attacks and educate arsonists about the dangers of fire.

FIRE-P – which stands for Firesetters’ Integrated Responsive Educational Programme – is part of HIWFRS’ Arson Task Force.

None of those who have completed the FIRE-P programme (almost 200 participants) have gone on to commit another arson offence – with the success now being shared with other fire and rescue services across the country.

FIRE-P uses a hard-hitting video that shows the terrifying speed in which a fire can get out of control. The live fire demonstration – filmed under the supervision of HIWFRS – reveals how a mocked-up bedroom becomes engulfed in flames in under three minutes.

As the window cracks, a rush of oxygen causes the blaze to intensify, with temperatures rising to more than 1,000 degrees Celsius within seconds.

Picture of a burning bedroom

The live fire demonstration reveals how a mocked-up bedroom becomes engulfed in flames in under three minutes.

FIRE-P manager, Shane Blampied, said: “The success of FIRE-P is making life safer for people across our communities.

“Our partners from the University of Portsmouth have played a vital role in making sure the programme has been developed and evaluated, so that we know it really works.

“It has been of huge benefit to the Service and at the same time the course helps participants when they are looking at housing and job prospects on their release so they can be helped to move on with their lives.”

HIWFRS’ Assistant Director for prevention and protection, Area Manager Jason Avery, said: “Some of those who commit arson offences have no idea about how quickly a fire can get out of control, ultimately putting themselves and others at risk of serious injury or death.

“The courts now have the option to impose a mandatory requirement for an offender to participate in FIRE-P as part of a custodial or non-custodial sentence.

“We are very proud of the success of FIRE-P and are looking forward to sharing it with other fire and rescue services across the country.”

While more needs to be done, our research shows that the success of the programme in Hampshire far-exceeds predictions based on the offenders’ profiles.

Dr Dominic Pearson, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology

The eight-session programme focuses on different elements of fire-setting, including the mechanics of fire and the motives and consequences of arson, before the participant has a session on victim awareness and empathy.

The educational based awareness training has been created for those who are known within the Criminal Justice System, have a history of arson or are considered to have an unusual fascination with fire.

Dr Dominic Pearson, from the University of Portsmouth, said: “People who set fires deliberately are known to be ill-educated regarding fire safety and the wider consequences of firesetting.

“The FIRE-P fills a void in such intervention programmes with adults outside secure psychiatric facilities.

“While more needs to be done, our research shows that the success of the programme in Hampshire far-exceeds predictions based on the offenders’ profiles.”

Our partners from the University of Portsmouth have played a vital role in making sure the programme has been developed and evaluated, so that we know it really works. It has been of huge benefit to the Service and at the same time the course helps participants when they are looking at housing and job prospects on their release so they can be helped to move on with their lives.

Shane Blampied, FIRE-P manager

Already endorsed and adopted by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Criminal Justice Board as a formal criminal justice sanction, courts have the option to impose a mandatory requirement for an offender to participate in FIRE-P as part of a custodial sentence or community order.

HIWFRS has carried out training with Tyne and Wear and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Services and has recently returned from a trip to Cleveland Fire Brigade, where they shared how the programme works.

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