Reckless and “cowardly” individuals have been blamed as the number of deliberate fires in the north-east could be on course to reach its highest in years.
Between the start of April and mid-November, 402 wilfully-set blazes were extinguished by the emergency services in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
If they continue to be started at the same rate over the coming months, it means the year-end total could be more than 660.
This would be the equivalent of close to two per day.
Despite orders for people to stay at home where possible during the pandemic, more fires have been set during the 2020-21 financial year so far than the same period last year.
Between April and mid-November 2019 there were 399 reported, with 590 overall when counting the full 2019-20 financial year.
In the 12 months before there were 703.
Among the deliberate fires set in the north-east this year was a large blaze at the disused Brimmond Primary last month, where neighbours said the flames were so close they thought their own homes had been set alight.
Emergency services had to work through the night to get the fire under control.
And in August alone, Cairngorm rangers had to tackle almost five fires every day with hotspots including Muir of Dinnet and Loch Muick in Deeside.
Earlier this year fire chiefs told Aberdeen City Council that deliberate fire-setting accounts for around 10% of all incidents across Scotland.
The majority of these involve the likes of grass, bushes and wheelie bins.
Fire service Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Andy Watt said: “We have worked hard across Scotland to engage with people from all walks of life to highlight the dangers of deliberate fires.
“They are never acceptable, and we’ll always work with police and other partners to identify those responsible.
“Those setting fires need to be aware of the impact of their actions on others and also themselves – the dangers presented by deliberate fires are very real and firefighters see the impact all too often.
“However, we also know it’s a minority of people in our communities who engage in such acts.”
The figures, obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, show the highest number of deliberate fires in the north-east this year was in the Torry and Ferryhill area of Aberdeen.
This was followed by Dyce, Bucksburn And Danestone, and Kingswells, Sheddocksley And Summerhill.
In Aberdeenshire, Huntly, Strathbogie And Howe Of Alford had the highest count.
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman and north-east MSP Liam Kerr said: “There has been an alarming trend in reckless incidents like these, particularly on larger buildings such as the former Bucksburn Primary last month.
“These cowardly incidents harm communities and put lives needlessly in danger which is totally unacceptable.
“An emergency is very time critical and deliberate fires have a potential to delay these crews.
“The fire service is doing everything it can to get the message across to people.
“But its needs help from the people themselves because these deliberate acts present a huge drain on the fire service.”