Police hunt arsonists after fire started ‘deliberately’ at Stevenage’s Fairlands Valley lake

PUBLISHED: 07:30 15 June 2017

Firefighters tackling the fire in Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage. Picture: Danny Loo

Firefighters tackling the fire in Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage. Picture: Danny Loo

Archant

Police are hunting for a group of teenagers they believe may have started a fire that destroyed part of a nature sanctuary at Fairlands Valley Park on Monday.

Firefighters tackling the fire in Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage. Picture: Supplied to the CometFirefighters tackling the fire in Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage. Picture: Supplied to the Comet

People across Stevenage were shocked to see a huge plume of black smoke rising over the town.

At first people speculated Marriotts School might be on fire, but it quickly became clear the root of the blaze was vegetation and a plastic jetty on the environmental island at the popular water park run by Stevenage Borough Council.

Three fire crews were called to the park off Fairlands Way to tackle the blaze – which started at about 9pm.

They quickly brought it under control, but members of the public were warned to keep their windows shut to avoid inhaling the smoke and a large amount of damage was caused to the environmental area which is a haven for wildlife such as ducks, swans and geese.

Smoke from the fire in Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage, could be seen from across the town. Picture: James CreightonSmoke from the fire in Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage, could be seen from across the town. Picture: James Creighton

Police are now appealing for people to come forward with information and have said witnesses reported a group of teenagers being in the area at the time.

Investigating officer Det Con Kirsty Richardson handed out a warning to whoever is responsible and anyone who thinks about starting a fire.

She said: “This fire caused a lot of damage and tied up valuable fire service resources. It could have had very serious implications for those involved if they had been trapped on the pontoon and were unable to escape.

“We are currently pursuing several lines of inquiry and believe the fire was started deliberately.

“We will deal robustly with anyone caught starting fires for fun or to deliberately cause damage. If you witness anyone behaving irresponsibly with or around fires, please contact the emergency services immediately.”

“In this dry hot weather fire can spread very quickly and easily get out of control. Luckily in this instance there were no homes close by, but the smoke from this fire affected local residents, their properties and motorists driving in the area.”

Stevenage Borough Council issued a warning about the dangers of lighting fires at the park.

A spokesman for the council said: “Thanks to the fast response of the fire and rescue service, staff at Fairlands Valley Park, and the police, the fire was contained quickly and safely.

“Fortunately no-one was injured although the plastic walkway and some plants and trees were damaged. The area affected is inaccessible to the public while the damage is inspected and cleaned up.

“Stevenage Borough Council staff are working with the fire and rescue service to assess the damage and investigate the cause of the fire.

“Fairlands Valley Park remains open to the public. We would ask all visitors to make note of the information boards around the park. Specifically, visitors should be aware that the lighting of fires and barbecues is not permitted anywhere in Fairlands Valley Park.”

Anyone with any Information is asked to call 101 quoting Crime reference number E1/17/4807. Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or submit information through their anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

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