FIREFIGHTERS in Oxford have had to deal with 50 per cent more arson attacks in the past 12 months than the year before.

Latest figures from Thames Valley Police reveal the number of fires reportedly started deliberately in the city has shot up dramatically.

In the 12 months up to October this year the force received 73 reports of arson, compared to the 49 reported in the same period for 2017/18.

Just last weekend a boat moored in Castle Mill Stream in the centre of the city was destroyed in a fire which officers think was lit deliberately.

Residents had woken on Sunday to the sound of sirens and thick smoke as flames took over part of the stream behind Canal Street, and pictures later showed the charred remains after firefighters had battled to put out the flaming vessel.

The force have now revealed that a 38-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of arson – she has since been released under investigation.

Other major arsons include:

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Reacting to the rise in reports of arson in the city, the force warned that anybody caught could face a 'lengthy prison sentence'.

The chief fire officer for the county, meanwhile, said the rise in alleged attacks was a 'huge concern'.

Rob MacDougall said: "All fires that are started deliberately are of huge concern to us and it is obviously worrying that reported incidents are on the rise in some parts of Oxfordshire.

"We will continue to support Thames Valley Police with the investigation of these crimes while working with communities to prevent them happening in the first place."

However the rise was not consistent across the whole county – which is made up of Cherwell and West Oxfordshire's figures as well as South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse.

South and Vale's latest statistics revealed a five per cent rise on the 77 incidents reported in 2017/18.

In Cherwell, meanwhile, the figure was down by 17 per cent.

In Oxford, the latest 12-month figure is also down slightly on the same period for 2016, when there were 107 reports of arson dealt with by the force.

In Oxfordshire as a whole there were 299 reports in that period, 51 more than this year's number.

Across Thames Valley there has also been a rise in the amount of criminals setting things alight – with an average 10 per cent rise in reported attacks.

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley Matthew Barber said the figures would be monitored closely.

He said: “A rise in incidents of arson is a growing concern to us and we urge anyone who may be a victim of arson to make a report to Thames Valley Police.

“We are pleased to see the number of recorded incidents of arson in Cherwell and West Oxfordshire is falling. However, the increase in recorded incidents of arson in both Oxford and South and Vale is of concern and the Police and Crime Commissioner will monitor this situation closely.”