THE number of deliberate fires in Barrhead rose substantially in the last three months of 2019, according to new figures.

A report to East Renfrewshire Council’s cabinet last week said such crimes were at their highest level in five years.

There were 42 incidents recorded in the three months from October to December last year, compared to 30 in the same period in 2018.

The Barrhead, Liboside and Uplawmoor ward accounted for 40 per cent of all deliberate blazes, with 29 per cent recorded in the Newton Mearns South and Eaglesham area.

Most of the fires happened after 7pm, with some as early as 4.30pm and others as late as 4am.

In the past five years, at least 70 per cent of fires were in unoccupied buildings, didn’t involve casualties or were attended by only a few appliances.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Group Commander David McCarrey, who is head of prevention and protection in East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, told the Barrhead News: “We take a zero tolerance approach to deliberate fire-setting.

“It is a small minority of individuals who are potentially putting themselves, our firefighters and innocent bystanders at risk of serious harm and injury.

“These incidents are a needless drain on our resources and can impact on our response to real emergencies, where lives might very well be at risk.

“We will continue to work with our communities to remind them of the dangers but equally in close partnership with our police and local authority partners to ensure that those responsible are identified and held to account for their actions.”

False alarms remain the biggest demand on the fire service’s resources, with numbers at their highest level in five years for the last three months of 2019.

They account for 37 per cent of all callouts.

Group Commander McCarrey added: “We will never be complacent and we will continue to remind people that deliberate fire-setting is a crime and that a criminal record can affect future life and job opportunities – a price that can be easily avoided.”

Road traffic collisions and other non-fire emergencies attended by the fire service dramatically fell compared to 2018.

Accidental fires at home were up slightly, with a third recorded in the Giffnock and Thornliebank ward.

The report presented to councillors confirmed there were no fatalities or serious injuries as a result of fires during the last three months of 2019.

Read all the latest from Barrhead and beyond