A FIRE chief has described the level of deliberate fires in South Wales as “unacceptable” following the sentencing of a man who burnt down a crisp factory in Crumlin.

Colin Goulding, 31, of Bridge Street, Abertillery, was jailed for six years and three months on Wednesday after he admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Dewi Jones, group manager and head of the Fire Crime Unit at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said around three quarters of fires they are called to are started deliberately.

He described this “completely unacceptable”, adding: “Arson is a serious crime that has an impact on the whole community.

“The SWFRS Fire Crime Unit will continue to work with the police and its partners to bring arsonists to justice.

“We also urge members of the public to help us look after their communities and the safety of their families by reporting any individuals they believe are involved with arson activities.”

On September 20, 2012, Goulding started a fire after he dropped a cigarette at the Real Crisps factory where he worked with his parents in Croespenmaen near Crumlin.

The fire at the factory on the Sirhowy Valley Foods Estate destroyed most of the building causing £6 million worth of damage.

Around 50 firefighters from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) attended in order to extinguish the fire and 20 staff members were forced to evacuate the premises.

No-one was injured but most of the 120 workers were made redundant in October 2012, when owners Tayto Group Ltd did not re-open.

Yesterday, a Tayto Group spokeswoman told the Argus the company had agreed in principle to offer more working hours to staff at the site before the fire took place.

She confirmed a factory would not re-open in the area, but would not comment on Wednesday’s sentencing.

Last year, the company’s CEO, Paul Allen, said: “There is no doubt that our hearts wanted to return to Wales, our staff were extremely loyal and have lost their jobs through absolutely no fault of their own.

“This fire cost the company dearly, not just financially but also through lost business and development opportunities. However, the cost has been greater to many individuals and families in the area.”