LIVES are being put at risk by arsonists deliberately starting fires in and around Parkhurst Forest, says the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service.

In just over a week, three fires have been tackled by the fire service in the forest and surrounding areas.

Jeff Walls, group manager at Newport Fire Station, said: "There was evidence of fire-starting at two locations and we have ruled out any other cause. The proximity of all three fires leans towards the culprit being the same person or group.

"To those who do this to see how quickly a fire lights up or spreads, you are putting lives and property at risk.

"Not only are the lives of firefighters in danger when they tackle that particular fire, but the whole Island is less safe when resources are stretched."

Between 7.45am and 10pm on Tuesday, the fire service dealt with five 'fires in the open’, a car crash, a fire in an electrical sub-station, a rescue from a vehicle, an oven fire, a fire alarm at a residential care home and a re-inspection of a property fire from the day before.

These responses required 14 fire engines and three special appliances in total.

"It was a busy day dealing with emergencies and accidents without being called out to a deliberate fire," said Mr Walls.

A spokesperson from the Forestry Commission said it was working with police to try to identify the people responsible.

The current hot and dry weather creates conditions in which fires are easily started and easily get out of control.

Across the country, firefighters have been called to tackle a blaze on Winter Hill that spread across an area of eight square kilometres, a mile-long mountain fire in Carmel, a forest fire in Gwynedd and a widespread fire on Saddleworth Moor.

Mr Walls said: "Even embers from innocent bonfires and barbecues or a cigarette dropped to the ground can spark the dry grass and woodlands at this time.

"Tuesday morning's fire could have been extremely dangerous if it had managed to spread. Our crews worked hard for four hours to make sure it was out."

A spokesperson from the Forestry Commission added: "Every year, fire destroys thousands of hectares of countryside across England.

"They are a threat to people, wildlife, and forest.

"We want everyone to be able to enjoy the outdoors but the current dry conditions have increased the risk of fires so we are urging people to please act responsibly."

Anyone with any information can call the police anonymously on 101.