Crackdown to stop arson attacks at the racecourse

Mark Clayton, operations manager at Doncaster Racecourse, examines one of the National Hunt jumps damaged by fire.

Mark Clayton, operations manager at Doncaster Racecourse, examines one of the National Hunt jumps damaged by fire.

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DONCASTER Racecourse is beefing up security after a spate of arson attacks to its jumps left it with a £20,000 repair bill.

Two more jumps have been set alight this week, bringing the total this year to four. There have also been an additional four more blazes on the Town Moor course since the start of this year.

Although the damage will not affect racing because it is the flat season the incidents are causing concern to racecourse management.

It is thought the fires are being started by drunks on their way home from a night in Doncaster town centre, or by bored teenagers.

But track managers said they must not be dismissed as just ‘high jinks’ and fire bosses have warned the actions of arsonists mean crews could be tied up dealing with such incidents when needed at life-threatening emergencies.

“We are taking this very seriously and are stepping up security,” said racecourse managing director Mark Spincer.

Doncaster fire crews only have a few hundred yards to travel from their base in Leicester Avenue but because the jumps are mostly made of brushwood they are almost destroyed by the time they arrive.

The latest fires were started at about 12.30am and 2.40pm on Sunday.

Each one of the damaged fences - which will be used when the National Hunt season starts in November - costs £5,000 to rebuild.

Most of the other arson attacks have been taking place in the late evening.

The two other fence fires were in April and June, and Doncaster fire crews have also been called to put out burning refuse, tree and bushes in April and June.

Mr Spincer added: “Although the perpetrators might consider this to be Saturday night high jinx, we are taking this very seriously and are stepping up security.

“The message is that the people doing this will be caught, and we appeal to members of the public to report anything they know about these incidents either to us or to the police.”

A fire service spokesman said: “Deliberate fires make up three quarters of all the fires we go to, potentially diverting our resources away from life-threatening emergencies.

“So we’d encourage anyone with information about people starting fires in their area to report them anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

A separate fire on a housing estate near the racecourse may also be linked to the incidents.