Deliberate fire setting has doubled in Levenmouth, prompting fears youngsters may be inhaling noxious gases from burning wheelie bins.
Concerns teenagers could be trying to get a high from fumes released from burning plastic were expressed as it was revealed burnt-out bins had been found in parks and fields.
The comments by Fife Council co-leader David Alexander follow a warning issued by anti-solvent abuse charities last year, although local firefighters insist there is no evidence it is happening in Fife.
Wheelie bins were among a number of items set alight in Levenmouth in the past year, with crops, woodland, rubbish and other containers also burnt.
A report to Fife Council’s Levenmouth area committee revealed 127 instances of deliberate fire setting in Levenmouth in 2017/18, up from 61 three years previously.
Local area manager Dave Paterson said the two Levenmouth council wards were by far the most problematic areas in Fife and that a local taskforce had been created to tackle it.
“Properties targeted include wheelie bins, which is opportunistic fire setting, but it’s worrying that these are close to properties and any development could be catastrophic,” he said.
Mr Alexander, SNP councillor for Leven, Kennoway and Largo, said it was important to understand the reasons for the increase.
“Wheelie bin fires are grossly under-reported,” he said.
“People can inhale gas from wheelie bins and get a high from it. If that’s why they’re doing it it’s something we need to get to the bottom of. We don’t get increases like this without something going on.”
He added: “A lot of wheelie bins have disappeared and we find them burnt in the park.”
Methil fire station manager Steven Michie said there was no evidence local young people were involved in such activity.
“We’ve not witnessed any evidence of that. It’s more opportunistic,” he said.
“There is an issue with deliberate fires generally and it’s wasting our resources.”
Police have recorded 22 crimes involving fireraising in Levenmouth in the last six months alone and 17 people have been charged, some of them with multiple fireraising offences.
The deliberate fire reduction forum will now analyse activity in a bid to work out how to reverse the trend.
Accidental house fires have also risen slightly in Levenmouth, with two more in 2017-18 than the previous year but thanks to increased fitting of smoke detectors the damage caused was generally confined to one room.
The number of people injured by fire fell from three to one during the same period.