NEW figures released by South Wales Fire and Rescue for May show the strain the emergency service is due to deliberately set fires.

In just one month, May 2014, crews attended 411 deliberately started fires and acts of arson across Gwent and South Wales, including 124 grass fires and 175 refuse fires, 98 per cent of which were deliberately set.

Jennie Griffiths, head of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service's Fire Control and management of 999 calls, said : “I find it amazing the amount of deliberately started fires, particularly in certain areas.

"In some communities, including Newport, it is quite prevalent. Deliberately set fires put a real strain on the service, diverting us away from bigger incidents, and putting unnecessary strain on both the crews and the staff behind the scenes.

“Not only that, they are so destructive. People don't seem to care what they set fire too – we’ve had stables with horses in them set on fire, and even wheelie bins which are clearly marked as being a disabled person’s property set on fire. There seems to be an uncaring destructive attitude. It’s worrying.”

Control staff prevented unnecessarily sending fire engines out on 56 occasions in May when callers did not need Fire Service assistance. Other fires attended by the service during May included three schools, three pubs, three derelict buildings and two shops.

Crews attended 72 vehicle fires, six garage fires, nine chimney fires, six shed fires and three barn fires in May, and carried out 83 rescues of people deemed ‘at risk’, including three water rescues.

They also attended 122 road accidents, of which 30 people were extricated and two were fatal.

Crews also attended 60 house fires during May, two of which were fatal and 34 of which started in the kitchen.

Ms Griffiths added: “That’s something we are currently working to reduce. A lot of the fires involve kitchen appliances like chip pans, but often large electrical items like washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers are a problem too.

“We advise people to ensure all electrical devices, and in particular these larger ones, are switched off at the mains overnight and when there is no one in the house.”

She added that the service has noted an increase in kitchen based house fires on Sundays.

During May South Wales Fire and Rescue Service rescued six dogs, five cats, three horse, three seagulls, one buzzard, one hedgehog, one kitten and 61 sheep May.