LOCAL schemes aimed at tackling arson can make a real difference leading to fewer deliberate fires, says a report.
More than 30 projects, including two from West Yorkshire Fire Service and one from the North Yorkshire service, were evaluated.
They ranged from clearing abandoned vehicles before they can become a target for arsonists, to working with young people on anti-social behaviour. All were funded by the Government's Arson Control Forum.
The report says where local schemes have been set up the number of deliberate fires has fallen by about 2%. This compares to a 27% increase in the number of deliberate fires in areas where no action was taken.
One West Yorkshire project, the School Arson Audit programme, started in September 2001 and was initially funded for two years by the Arson Control Forum.
Due to its success it was extended and is now funded by West Yorkshire Police and Fire Service.
The project involves a police officer and fire officer visiting and inspecting schools or working with architects on the designs for new schools to "design out" arson and crime at the planning stage.
The audit programme has visited and reported on 274 schools.
In 2000, prior to the project, there were 68 deliberate school fires across West Yorkshire. In 2004 to date there have been 45.
Fire Safety Minister Phil Hope said: "Arson is still the largest single cause of major fires in the UK.
"Not only are these projects helping to drive down the number of deliberate fires but they are saving the taxpayer money - for every £1 invested it is estimated that at least £16 has been saved in terms of fire costs to the economy."