HUNDREDS of fires were started deliberately in Lancashire during the first coronavirus lockdown, figures reveal.

The National Fire Chiefs Council said it was “shocking” fire services across England had to respond to arson call-outs at a time when they were helping deliver food and medicine to the most vulnerable.

Home Office data shows the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service responded to 699 deliberate fires between April and June – an increase of 73% on the 405 between January and March.

The figures include all fires thought or suspected to be intentional, including arson, and others such as bonfires and grass fires.

There were 14 non-fatal casualties from deliberate fires in Lancashire, three of which required hospital treatment.

Nationally, 239 non-fatal casualties from deliberate fires were recorded between April and June – along with eight deaths.

Fire and rescue services across England attended more than 20,000 deliberate fires during these three months, during which the toughest Covid-19 restrictions were imposed.

This was over 50% more than they attended between January and March, and coincided with a period when firefighters were delivering food and medicine and giving support to the police and ambulance services.

NFCC chair Roy Wilsher said: “During these unprecedented times, the fire service is working incredibly hard to ensure the safety of communities across the entire UK, doing their upmost to protect the most vulnerable.

“However, it is shocking and unbelievable that we have seen a rise in deliberate fires, which results in additional pressure on already stretched resources.

“Attending a deliberate fire is time away from attending other life-threatening incidents and carrying out other vital work. Arson is a criminal act and fire services will work with the police in a bid to hold these people to account in a bid to see them successfully prosecuted.”

With people spending more time at home, the NFCC is urging them to employ fire prevention methods to allow fire and rescue services to respond effectively to emergencies.

Fire crews in Lancashire also had to deal with 891 non-fire incidents between April and June.