Riddle as the trees burn

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POLICE are hunting a firebug carrying out a bizarre campaign of torching TREES.

Detectives are investigating 10 fires in the Beechwood and Triangle areas of Sowerby in the last month.

In each case, conifers or hedges made of leylandii in people’s gardens have been set alight under cover of dark.

Sergeant Sarah Giles said although the fires had been discovered and put out quickly, they had been close to people’s houses.

She said: “If anyone has any information about these fires we want to hear from them.”

There was no suggestion that petrol or paraffin had been used to start the fires. But police are convinced they were started maliciously.

The most recent blaze was at Tillotson Avenue in Sowerby at 2.30am on Thursday when a conifer was found in flames.

Fire crews say a bush set on fire in a garden at Hillside View in Sowerby at 7pm on Thursday night could also be linked.

Tillotson Avenue was targeted earlier this month when another conifer was set alight, covering nearby gardens with white ash.

As reported in the Courier, ash fallout from the fire puzzled people living there, including 71-year-old Barbara Smith, who woke to find white powder all over her back garden.

She originally thought it may have come down with the rain.

She said: “The garden was totally white. I just didn’t know what it was. I didn’t have a clue.”

Tim Baylis, manager of Gordon Rigg Garden Centre in Todmorden, said he had never heard of this kind of attack on trees before.

He said dead trees would burn easily but most live varieties of conifers would be difficult to burn, especially as there would be recent growth because of the last few weeks’ rain.

However, leylandii – often used for hedging in residential areas – have a lot of dead matter inside their branches and could burn quickly if set alight.

Leylandii have led to many disputes between neighbours.

The trees can reach 20ft within a few years, blotting out light and soaking up moisture from the soil.

Gardeners have nicknamed them “the scourge of suburbia”.

Police are working with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s arson task force to investigate the blazes.

They are asking people to watch out for anyone acting suspiciously.

If they have information, they should call 0845 6060606 or CrimeStoppers, where information can be passed on anonymously, on 0800 555111.