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Brierfield metal thieves steal radiators before torching empty house
11:00am Wednesday 30th May 2012 in Brierfield
FOUR terrace homes have been gutted after suspected metal thieves torched another property.
The incident yesterday in Brierfield was the latest in a series of blazes at empty homes that have blighted the Burnley and Pendle areas in recent weeks.
Yobs broke into one of the houses in Cambridge Street at 3am, stealing radiators, before the building went up in flames, spreading to three adjoining properties.
Police said the incident was being investigated and was part of a ‘growing problem’ of arson attacks on empty homes being targeted for scrap metal.
Early on Saturday a similar incident saw three terraced homes suffer serious fire damage in Bar Street, Burnley, following a break-in.
DC Mick Smith, of Burnley CID, said: “The latest incident in Brierfield has seen major damage caused to a number of properties.
“There’s a growing problem of intruders targeting empty homes for metal and other items of value such as radiators and boilers.
“This problem is becoming more serious as in this case it appears as if a fire has then been deliberately started.
“I’m keen to stress that empty properties should be made as secure as possible and all valuables should be taken out.”
Last month, housing association Calico, which manage 4,500 homes in Burnley, implemented measures to prevent metal theft from vacant properties.
When a tenant leaves their home any vulnerable scrap metal items are painted with an invisible dye.
The Selecta DNA system contains a unique forensic code which when scanned can be used to mark and trace both the property and criminals who handle it.
Items such as boilers, radiators and lead are be painted.
The Association of Chief Police Officers estimates that metal thefts costs the UK economy around £770million per year and in the past year there were 3,014 reported such crimes in Lancashire.
Calico, which estimates the cost of replacing a stolen boiler is around £2,500, works with police and scrap metal merchants to help them identify marked stolen goods.
Two of the homes in Cambridge Street had been refurbished and were set to be put on the rental market shortly.
Lee Proctor, of Right Way DIY centre in Brierfield, which owns two of the properties including the one where the fire started, said: “I was called up at about 4am by my boss who said there had been a fire.
“We were just in the process of renovating them to rent out. Thousands had been spent on the properties and it was hoped that they were nearly ready for people to move in to.
“Both houses have been gutted and the roofs of the others have been destroyed too. It looks as though all the radiators have been taken off the walls, probably to be sold.”
Crew manager Adrian Howarth from Nelson fire station said: “It looks as though they had entered through the back of the property as the front was boarded up.
“We believe that the fire was set deliberately but it is not yet known how.
“It looks like the fire was started upstairs in number 8 and then spread to the neighbouring houses.”
Crews were called back to the scene at around 11.20am when part of the building began smouldering again.
Kerrie Scott, 21 lives with her partner and her two year old son in Cambridge Street. She said: “I woke up about 2.45am because I thought it was raining.
“The flames were coming out of the window and then glass shot out of the window and nearly covered a man stood nearby.”
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