A NEW campaign has been launched this week in an effort to cut the number of arson attacks putting lives at risk across Wirral and Merseyside.

Fire, police and councils have united to try to raise awareness of the dangers that can be caused by deliberately setting fires.

Skips will be provided to remove fly-tipped rubbish from communities and fire-prevention teams will give advice to business owners about waste management.

They will also "engage" with homeless people to raise awareness of the dangers and provide support to residents concerned about anti-social fire setting in their neighbourhoods.

Paul Kay, arson reduction co-ordinator for Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Arson is a serious criminal offence which puts people’s lives at risk, causes damage to homes, businesses and community facilities and impacts on wildlife and the environment.

“It can range from mindless criminal damage to a deliberately-targeted attack but either way, the potentially deadly consequences remain the same.

“If fire appliances are called out to deliberate fires this may delay the response to other emergencies, which could endanger lives elsewhere.

“We want to make people aware that deliberately setting fires in a public place is arson and if caught, those responsible may face legal action.”

Chief superintendent Peter Costello, head of local policing, said: “We will be carrying out extensive work alongside MFRS and our other local partners throughout the week.

“We will also be using this as an opportunity to target serious and organised criminals operating across the county, in order to disrupt their criminal activity.

“The consequences of arson can be catastrophic in our communities - putting lives and businesses under threat and greatly impacting on the response of Merseyside’s emergency services.

“Educating people about the dangers of arson in all its forms is vital in reducing this impact.

"Alongside MFRS, we will robustly investigate incidents of arson and prosecute all those identified as being responsible.”

Wirral Council has been working closely with the fire service to combat the problem of blazes set in fly-tipped rubbish.

Councillor George Davies, cabinet member for community safety, said: “Arson attacks not only put lives at risk but also people’s homes, businesses and local facilities.

"We would urge residents to report any suspicious activity immediately, particularly the initial dumping of rubbish as this can give us the opportunity to get it removed before an even more serious incident happens.”

The "Arson Awareness Week" began on Monday and will continue until Friday.

If you see anyone setting fires in your community report it to the police immediately or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.