Arsonists in Hampshire have been sentenced to more than 500 years jail time after being brought to book by some of the country's top fire investigators
The Arson Task Force, and its fire investigation team, has also just notched up the 200th conviction in its 10-year history, during which time it has looked into more than 2,000 blazes and determined more than 1,300 were deliberate.
The latest figures show investigations by the team, headed up by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service station manager Damian Watts, have led to 474 years in prison, 32 years community service orders 38 years supervision orders being imposed.
Some of those arrested were cautioned or sectioned under the Mental Health Act. A small number of cases are also later dropped for a variety of reasons.
However, there was a 70% conviction rate for the cases where suspects were charged.
There are several ground-breaking approaches being pioneered by the Hampshire team which have contributed to this impressive conversion rate.
Arson Task Force and fire investigation station manager Watts said: “The Hampshire team is special because we are given a high level of support from the service.
“Having dedicated fire investigation officers mean our skills and specialities are not diluted.
“The unique work we do pushes the boundaries of previous fire investigation methods and some of the research we are now doing could have wide reaching applications."
Mr Watts continued: “We are also extremely lucky to have established a great relationship with Hampshire Constabulary and we have a police officer who works from the same office as us.
“The enthusiasm, dedication and energy of the team is inspirational.”
Mr Watts, who has obtained a teaching qualification and is working on his masters degree, said his team are constantly building on their knowledge and increasing their level of expertise.
He added he believes “amazing” results can be achieved by blending vast first-hand experience and expertise with pioneering research and academia.
In a UK first, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Portsmouth.
Members of the Arson Task Force will lecture at the university and take on students for industrial gap years as well as 12-week placements.
Projects include work on fire patterning and fire scene contamination.
Members have also worked with more than 100 adult fire setters in a unique educational course and seen no repeat offenders.
The Arson Task Force also shares skills and gives advice to the police and military and have championed a restorative justice project.