ARSON incidents involving vehicles being deliberately set on fire have increased across the region, according to latest figures.

Home Office statistics reveal that Cleveland, Durham, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland fire services were called out to 1,113 deliberate vehicle fires in 2018/19 – the equivalent of three every day.

It means that more than two in every three car fires attended by the services were arson.

The number is up from 1,074 deliberate vehicle fires in the previous year and is the highest number on recent record, having doubled from 538 arson attacks on cars in 2013/14.

The rise comes at a time when the fire service has been dealing with ongoing cuts to their workforce and the Fire Brigade Union warns this could mean they are less able to respond quickly and effectively to car arson.

There are currently the equivalent of 1,743 full time firefighters working in across the North East – down from 2,636 in 2002, and the lowest number on recent record.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Deliberately caused fires put the lives of firefighters and members of the public at risk, and use up precious time and resources.

“Regardless of the cause, it is vital that firefighters are able to respond to a fire quickly and effectively, but a decade of austerity has put those capabilities at risk.

“Nationally one in five firefighter posts have been slashed since 2010, with emergency response times taking a significant hit.

“The overall number of fires in England has spiked by nearly ten per cent this year – we urgently need more firefighters and more investment in the fire and rescue service.”

Ian Warne, head of prevention and education at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), said the force works closely with the police to take action against those responsible for setting fires.

“In 2018/19, TWFRS attended 563 deliberate vehicle fires which included cars, motorcycles, caravans and other vehicles," he said.

"Fires like these can easily spread, putting people in danger.

“We work closely with the police and other partners to reduce deliberate fires and to take action against those responsible."

Nationally, firefighters were called out to 10,254 deliberate vehicle fires in 2018/19, also down from 11,166 the year before.

In the majority of cases those vehicles were cars, although other popular targets included motorcycles of which more than 2,000 were set alight in the last year.

Other vehicles that were regularly attacked included 983 vans, 79 lorries and 26 buses.

In total, nine people were actually killed in deliberate vehicle fires in the last year, and a further 64 were seriously injured.