Following a worrying increase in the number of deliberate fires started since the first Covid lockdown, a councillor has urged "idle" residents to turn their boredom into good deeds – rather than "life-threatening mischief".

Shocking figures released by the Home Office have shown the Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service responded to 200 fires set deliberately between April and June – an increase of 106% on the 97 between January and March.

According to Allerdale Borough Council, there were 58 more deliberate fires in the borough between April and November 2020 than during the same period last year.

And after the major fire at Workington's former Fusion site in May, Allerdale Borough Councillor Paul Scott is saddened to see so many people turning to harmful acts, rather than acts of kindness, during the already difficult time of Covid.

He said: "Unsafe fires pose a threat to the life of anyone involved anyway, but especially when they are set close to people's homes or gardens.

"If people, especially young people, are bored and have nothing to do, they're going to find some mischief to get involved with," he said.

"Idle minds find things to do, and with gyms and community centres and everything still shut, people have nowhere to go, so decide to set fires for entertainment and a bit of excitement."

He continued: "It's sad to see, because there's enough worry at the moment as it is.

"Starting a fire deliberately is a crime – do people really want that on their record for life just so they can have a bit of fun now?"

"I think when places open up again, and people have a place to go instead of getting bored and finding their own entertainment, it will hopefully get better."

While the concerned councillor's hopes remain high for the future, he issued an appeal to anyone thinking of "getting up to mischief" during the pandemic.

"Instead of getting up to no good and putting people's lives at risk, do something good for your community," he said.

"Find out where help is needed – check your local food bank, or community group, because everyone needs so much help right now, so there's plenty of good to be done."

The National Fire Chiefs Council said it was "shocking" fire services across England had to respond to arson call-outs at a time when they were helping deliver food and medicine to the most vulnerable.

NFCC chairman, Roy Wilsher, said: “During these unprecedented times, The fire service is working incredibly hard to ensure the safety of communities across the entire UK, doing their upmost to protect the most vulnerable.

"It is shocking and unbelievable that we have seen a rise in deliberate fires, which results in additional pressure on already stretched resources.

"Attending a deliberate fire is time away from attending other life-threatening incidents and carrying out other vital work.

"Arson is a criminal act, and fire services will work with the police in a bid to hold these people to account in a bid to see them successfully prosecuted."

There was an 11% decrease in deliberate fires between April and June compared to the same period last year.

The majority of these during lockdown – both nationally and in Cumbria – were secondary fires, which are usually considered less serious.

With people spending more time at home, the NFCC is urging them to employ fire prevention methods to allow fire and rescue services to respond effectively to emergencies.

Mr Wilsher added: “Fire services have committed to providing support to other emergency services during this pandemic.

"Bringing down the number of preventable fires will mean they have more capacity to support the most vulnerable in their communities, while ensuring they maintain their emergency response.”

Fire crews in Cumbria also had to deal with 145 non-fire incidents between April and June.

Most commonly, the Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service responded to road traffic collisions on 37 occasions.

A Home Office spokesman said they were grateful for the tireless efforts of firefighters across the country, particularly for their bravery and commitment during this pandemic.

“Deliberate fires needlessly waste firefighters’ precious time and resources, and enforcement action can be taken against those responsible," they added.