A SUMMER of arson attacks has left a trail of destruction across East Lancashire with 174 incidents in five weeks.

And an MP said he feared someone would die in a fire if the run of incidents continued.

Firefighters said the summer was proving a ‘massive drain on resources’, while bosses pledged to continue preventative work to cut the total.

Between July 19 and August 27 there were 174 arson attacks, according to the fire service.

And the true toll may be higher as not all incidents have yet been recorded.

Of the total, 22 were at buildings in use while 142 targeted unused or derelict premises, as well as wheelie bins, rubbish and patches of land.

The incidents included, a new row of terrace homes in Accrington Road, Burnley, being razed to the ground in just 30 minutes.

Last week the Health and Fitness centre, Montague Street, Blackburn, was badly damaged in a deliberate fire.

In the past two weeks there have been fires at Livingstone Mill, Burnley, Albert Mill, Whitworth, Walsh and Dearden vehicle dismantlers, Darwen, and the former Circulation Club, Burnley Wood.

In the Whitworth blaze the fire engine was egged by youths as it left the scene in the early hours.

A couple of weekends ago a stretch of empty homes in Coleridge Street, Blackburn, were torched when youngsters got in to the boarded-up properties through the roof.

On Saturday fires were tackled at a former church building in Shadsworth Road, Blackburn, and a pile of building materials at East Street.

According to year-on-year figures to March 2010 the number of deliberate fires has been falling.

But the series of incidents this summer has given cause for concern.

In many of the arson attacks, fire chiefs and police have said they thought youths were to blame.

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said: "There's a certain minority these days who don't care. Their families don't care and even if you point out the dangers, they think it is funny."

Mr Jones said he was worried by the incidents, adding: "A fireman is going to lose his life. This issue cannot be underestimated.

"We need to be very firm with these youngsters, or with their parents on their behalf.

"The message is simple - it's not fun, arson can costs lives."

Lancashire Fire Brigade Union chairman Kevin Deacon said that blaming children on school holidays was 'just an assumption' until the 'root cause for each individual fire was investigated'.

He said his firefighters did not 'dread' the six-week period, but that 170 incidents in five weeks was a 'massive drain on our resources'.

Mr Deacon said: "Unfortunately arsons tend to be developed fires and the build up of heat with little ventilation is extremely hazardous.

"The police do robustly pursue prosecution if there's evidence, because it is not only putting firefighters lives at risk, but the public too."

Fire Chief Peter Holland cited the example of firefighter Chris Farrow, who broke his back last year tackling an arson blaze at Albert Mill, Whitworth, and found himself back there last week tackling the latest fire at the site.

He said: "Firefighters face risks dealing with fires and although they are equipped and trained to minimise those risks.

"It is of course one thing to face those risks to save lives and property in situations where fires have started accidentally and another when they are arson fires."

He said they had put a lot of work into reducing deliberate fires, but the figures showed there was no room for complacency.