Case Study: Fire service campaign achieves large reach and partial reduction in deliberate fires

More deliberately set outdoor fires were started overall this summer following a campaign by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, but there was a reduction in the county in the closing weeks, compared with the same period in 2017.

The SFRS 'Flames aren't games' campaign achieved significant reach but fell short of one key objective
The SFRS 'Flames aren't games' campaign achieved significant reach but fell short of one key objective

SFRS kicked off its 'Flames aren’t games' campaign in July, ahead of the summer holidays.

The hard-hitting film at the centre of the campaign, pitched at boys aged between 13 and 17, featured teenagers, portrayed by local fire cadets, playing a game that culminates in them setting fire to a pile of rubbish in a forest – with horrific consequences.

The film was shot in the found-footage style for additional effect. 

The campaign was a response to a surge in the number of deliberately set fires, often started by teenagers, earlier this summer, against the backdrop of a heatwave and the devastation caused by a fire that was deliberately started on the outskirts of Manchester and blazed for nearly three weeks during late June and early July.

Stats on fires

However, a key metric for the campaign – a reduction in the number of deliberately started fires across Staffordshire – was not achieved, said SFRS; in fact there was a substantial increase during July and August compared with 2017, then a small reduction in September.

Commenting on the results, SFRS comms officer Matt Gannon told PRWeek: "We were hoping to achieve a decrease in the number of outdoor fires during the summer holiday period compared to the two previous years during the same time period. We didn’t achieve this; there was an increase overall. However, there was a decrease in outdoor fires in the last three weeks of the holiday, compared to the first three weeks."

SFRS said there was a link between weather conditions over the summer, especially during the sustained heatwave in July and early August, and the number of deliberately set fires.

Traditional media coverage 

Over the life of the campaign to September, and in the immediate aftermath, SFRS generated 76 pieces of individual coverage across news outlets, both online and offline, with a combined reach of nearly three million people.

Media coverage at the start of the campaign was designed to raise awareness of the impact of deliberately starting fires, as well as the legal consequences.

Traditional media pick-up outstripped last year’s campaign, which received 56 pieces of coverage with a combined reach of 650,000.

SFRS said the increase in coverage was in part due to media interest in the large number of deliberate fires at the start of the summer holidays.

There was a second spike in coverage in September in which some media outlets focused on the reduction in fires during the last two weeks, while others concentrated on the overall increase in deliberate fires during the summer.

Social stats

Using social media, the campaign had an organic reach of more than 650,000 across Facebook and Twitter, with 1,500 link clicks and 36 posts.

Nearly three-quarters of its reach stemmed from its Facebook activity.

The campaign film on YouTube received more than 800 views and the 'Flames aren’t games' campaign webpage received nearly 6,500 views, many of which were generated by the campaign’s paid-for social-media strategy.

Paid-for social media

A modest paid-social budget of about £300, across Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, garnered the campaign additional reach of approximately 70,000 and drove traffic to the website.

SFRS reported that the best click-through rate and result rate was via Instagram, while Snapchat offered the best cost-per-click and the best reach. 

Lessons for the future

SFRS attributed the drop in the number of deliberate fires in the second half of the summer holiday period to a combination of its campaign work, across social and paid channels, and a change in weather conditions.

As part of its evaluation into the campaign, SFRS said the metrics of its digital activity on social media and its website showed it had given it "significant reach" and the film had received positive feedback.

But there were improvements the service could make to future iterations of the campaign.

The evaluation stated: "A more flexible approach could be considered whereby campaign and media messages are circulated specifically when the weather is at its driest and hottest. Feedback from colleagues suggested that more messages were needed earlier in the summer and this should be considered for future campaigns." 

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