DELIBERATE fires across Clacks, Stirling and Fife dropped by almost 20 per cent between March and April last year.

Firefighters across those areas were called to a total of 196 incidents of deliberate fire-raising between March and April 2020.

This is a decrease of 19 per cent on the year before, when Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) crews in the area were turned out to 243 needless blazes during the same period.

Across the whole of Scotland, there was a 32 per cent reduction in deliberate fire-raising, down from 3,658 to 2,491.

The figures were released as the Service launched its annual Spring Safety campaign.

Area commander Mark Bryce, local senior officer for Clackmannanshire, Stirling and Fife, said: "While any reduction in the number of deliberate fires is welcomed, we simply cannot be complacent.

"Deliberate fires have the potential to cause injury and even death or cause devastating damage to our environment and properties.

"One deliberate fire is one too many – they are a needless drain on emergency service resources at a difficult time."

Most reported fires took place outdoors and were set in either grassland or rubbish and refuse, however some incidents also included vehicles and even buildings.

The significant reduction also coincided with Scotland's first Covid-19 lockdown which introduced restrictions on movement which continue into Spring 2021.

LSO Bryce said: "Last year we saw restrictions put in place on social movement, and this year is no different as we continue to tackle this pandemic.

"As well as limits on how far people can travel, we also know that schools, clubs and community groups are affected or unable to open due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"Our firefighters and community action teams have been and will continue to work extremely hard to engage with the public and promote safety messages.

"But as we cannot conduct school visits or engage with young people directly through clubs and groups, I would ask parents, guardians and carers to help by making sure that children and young people are aware of the risks and consequences of deliberate fire setting.

"It is vital we continue to remind people that deliberate fire setting is a crime and a criminal record can affect future life and job opportunities – a price that can be easily avoided."

Anyone with information about deliberate fire-raising should contact the free and confidential Crimestoppers helpline on 0800 555 111.