Arsonists putting lives at risk says firefighter


Rebecca Cole

LIVES are being put at risk by arsonists who are targeting empty properties.
That is the claim made by Oswestry firefighter Adrian Bowen after a spate of attacks on well-known and long-term empty buildings such as the town’s former leisure centre in College Road and the old Woodlands Hotel in Middleton Road.
Crew manager Bowen urged the owners to do everything in their power to secure the buildings against intruders, which have included squatters and fly-tippers, to avoid anyone getting hurt.
“If a property is known to be empty, particularly if it has been for a long time, it does tend to attract this sort of behaviour,” he explained.
“Not only does it damage the property but the arsonists are putting their own lives at risk because if we’re called to what we think is an empty property we won’t necessary be looking out for people inside,” he added.
He said: “In one instance someone had pushed a wheelie bin into the leisure centre and set fire to it.

“We’re working hard to stop this in conjunction with the company that bought the former leisure centre,” he added.
Oswestry town and Shropshire Councillor Martin Bennett has previously contacted the owners of the former leisure centre and The Woodlands with the same concerns.
“There’s always a risk with this type of behaviour, particularly with a building as big as the old leisure centre,” he added.
“If someone was in there and had an accident it might be some time before they were found.
“The Woodlands particularly is very close to residential properties and if the building was torched it could affect other properties nearby.
“I would urge the owners of any empty building to make sure they’re as secure as possible now and to do what they can to speed up development in the long term,” he added.
The latest incident at the former leisure centre site saw four crews, command support, a search team and operational officers called to the scene after a number of fires were started inside. Luckily no-one was hurt.

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