YOUNG firebugs in the north of the Capital are starting nearly a quarter of all deliberate blazes reported across the city, according to new figures.
Gangs torching stolen motorbikes and igniting rubbish in districts such as Pilton and Muirhouse are behind the rise, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has warned.
The data shows the number of incidents in the Forth council ward – which has a population of around 33,000 – has jumped from 198 in 2013/14 to 211 in the current financial year.
Despite a city-wide drop of more than the 40 per cent over the last five years, the tally in Forth alone has soared by nearly half since 2012/13, when there were 142 deliberate fires. Across the city in 2014/15 so far, there have been 911 incidents.
Fresh evidence of a fireraising spike in north Edinburgh comes after a recent spate of incidents, including a blaze that ripped through St Paul’s Church in Muirhouse.
Steve Gourlay, Scottish Fire and Rescue prevention and protection manager, said: “Motorcycle crime has been an issue. Motorbikes are stolen and then they are set on fire. Many of these fires can be small, but equally some can be much more significant.
“Wherever you have deliberate fires, the risks are higher.”
Council staff, police and firefighters have united as part of a community drive called Stronger North to fight crime levels. But the fireraising figures come after the News revealed police were targeting a “dirty dozen” believed to be responsible for a wave of car thefts and other crime in the north of the city.
And residents said a tougher stance was needed. Robert Pearson, chair of Tenants and Residents in Muirhouse, said: “If these people are of an age to be sent to prison, it could be a custodial sentence – or send them out with the fire service so they understand what’s involved.”
Cammy Day, community safety leader, said he was determined to do everything possible to crack down on fireraising.
“Through Stronger North, we’ve been looking at making environmental improvements that can make the area safer,” he said. “Removing street bins because they present a risk, might be something we can do.”
Police officers said they had recommended improvements including improved CCTV and street lighting.
A spokeswoman said: “We will continue to work with our partners to create a better community for the people of north Edinburgh.”