Firefighters have warned vandals are putting homes and businesses at risk with a spate of wheelie bin fires in an area of Preston.
Only the swift action of a man out walking his dog prevented a major blaze at the rear of the Spar store in Plungington Road this week - the latest in a worrying series of deliberate attacks.
And now police and fire chiefs have launched a determined effort to catch the culprits before lives and property are lost.
“We are working hard with the police to identify the suspects,” said Preston watch manager Mark Woodward.
“There is a danger this could escalate and if it does we could be looking at something a lot more serious.”
The latest blaze happened when commercial bins behind shops were set on fire at around 9.15pm on Tuesday.
A man walking past noticed the flames and dragged the bins out to prevent the fire engulfing a large bin store.
“Obviously we wouldn’t advise people to do that because they could be in danger,” said watch manager Mr Woodward. “But he was being public spirited and we are very grateful to him for that.
“We have an issue with youths in this area lighting fires like this and we need to bring this to a halt.
“It isn’t the first time because we had a similar spate of fires last July in this neighbourhood and we did some work down there.
“This particular fire could have had serious consequences and an investigation is now underway using CCTV footage to trace who was responsible.
“Once we identify who they are then we will take positive action and make sure they are brought to justice.
“In the meantime I would urge all businesses and domestic premises in that area to make sure their bins are only put out when a collection is due and ensure waste storage areas are secure.”