Police linking seven suspected arson attacks in bins in the Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton areas in the last month are appealing for public help.
Seven fires, mostly in July and all believed linked, have been reported to the emergency services.
The bins of commercial premises have been targeted in six cases but the latest fire in the early hours of Friday, July, 24, was started in recycling waste outside someone’s home in Budleigh.
Police and the fire service are urging residents and business owners to be vigilant, take steps to reduce the risk and to report any suspicious behaviour.
Detectives at Exmouth want to hear from anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity or if they have concerns about any person they may know, who has come home smelling of smoke, or has developed a fascination with fire or the emergency services.
Police are keen to hear from anyone who may have any information to help their enquiries, including those with CCTV footage from the areas where fires have been started.
The latest fire reported was outside a residential property in Budleigh where people were asleep, said police.
Investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Tim Hegarty of Exmouth CID, said: “This is deeply concerning and fortunately the fire was not able to spread from the bin so no one was injured.”
The most recent fire took place at 2.30am on Friday, (July 24) when bins were set alight outside a residential building in Greenway Lane, Budleigh Salterton. No one was injured.
A further fire happened at Exmouth Pavilion on the Esplanade at 1.30am on Monday, July 13. Police believe an accelerant was used.
The bins at Budleigh Salterton Football Club were also targeted at around 3am on Saturday, July 11.
On Wednesday, July 7, several thousand pounds worth of damage was caused to the Bumble and Bee tearoom in the Manor Gardens, Exmouth, after a fire started at 2.45am and spread to the building.
Further bin fires occurred at Lympstone Boxing Club at 2pm on Sunday, July 5, at Harbour View Café in Exmouth between 8.30am and 9am on Friday, July 3, and at Hamilton Lane in Exmouth between 4am and 7am on Sunday, May 3.
Police said officers will continue to carry out door-to-door enquiries in the affected areas and are urging people to be vigilant.
Investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Tim Hegarty of Exmouth CID, said: “So far these fires have caused damage to people’s business premises – at times causing a lot of financial damage, anguish and inconvenience.”
He added: “We are continuing to work alongside our colleagues at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to make enquires and establish the cause of these fires.
“We would like to hear from anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity or have concerns about any person they may know who has, for example, come home smelling of fire, or has developed a fascination with fire or the emergency services.”
Area Manager Darren Peters, of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Fires started deliberately can be particularly dangerous because they generally develop much faster.
“Fires started in bins or on open ground can spread to properties or vehicles nearby and put people’s lives at risk.
“The service works closely with the police and always seeks to prosecute those people who have started fires deliberately.
“We are asking members of the public to be vigilant and keep all flammable goods well and securely stored.”
The fire service has issued safety advice in a bid to reduce chances of an arson attack, urging businesses and residents to regularly remove all combustible rubbish from gardens and driveways, keep bins in a secure place and only put them out on the day of collection, and not to place bins adjacent to buildings or vehicles.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact police on 101 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and quote log number 0099 of 13 July.