Axminster youths on intervention programme after fire at solicitors

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ELEVEN youths will attend a fire service intervention programme after they came close to burning down an historic building in Axminster.

Police stress that the youths never intended to cause any damage, but what was meant to be a ‘harmless’ bonfire could have destroyed the building housing Bevis & Beckingsale Solicitors.

It was thanks to the company’s top notch fire warning system that a major blaze was prevented, police say.

Firefighters were called shortly before 1am on Tuesday, November 21st to the Silver Street premises.

There was a small fire in a rear room on the ground floor, but it could have been worse.

Police and the fire service jointly investigated, and PC Simon Aldred said a group of youths had gathered under the arch at Law Chambers, Silver Street, and lit a bonfire, adding: “It is an historic and timber-framed building, and this little bonfire set fire to the wooden frame of the building – and the fire smouldered through the evening into the early hours. It came very close.

“If they [the company) hadn’t had a top notch fire system, it could have burnt the building down very easily.

“We’ve had a number of fires in the last six weeks in Axminster, kids burning rubbish like a mini-bonfire.

“They are aged 14-16 years, causing a nuisance to residents and coming to our attention.

“We have identified the group with the help of the school and social media, and all children present when the fire (Silver Street) was lit will receive intervention from the fire service and police.

“The fire service does a Fire Setter Intervention Programme to show there are wider repercussions to lighting a fire, and this has been demonstrated at Bevis and Beckingsale.

“We are not saying the children had any intention of burning the building down, which is why they will go on the programme.”

The youths will attend the programme at some point during the coming months, and will also be issued with what is known as Anti-Social Behaviour Contracts.

The fire and rescue service said: “Our Firesetters Scheme has been running since 1995 and is designed to advise children and young people with firesetting behaviour.

“The aim of the scheme is to help children and young people understand and control the feelings and circumstances that lead them to set fires.

“Our advisors will also help the child or young person to understand the results of their actions through a series of visits and educational exercises at the child’s home or other neutral venue.

“All of our advisors are employed by Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service and have various roles including firefighters, control room staff and non-uniformed support staff.

“If you think that you know of a child or young person who could benefit from being referred to the Firesetters Scheme, call Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service on 0800 0502 999.

“Referrals will usually need the consent of a parent or carer.”

Chief Reporter | Started his working life on a farm before becoming a screen printer, both in Sweden. Had another career change and turned to journalism in the mid1990s. Enjoyed an internship with Alexandria Gazette Packet, Va, USA, before moving to the UK. Got a job with The Clarion in Yeovil in 1998, but moved to Axminster in 2006 and has worked on the East Devon beat since.

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