MORE than 20 firefighters fought to bring a suspected “malicious” jetty blaze under control in South Tyneside.
Youngsters may have been responsible for starting the blaze at Hebburn riverside, which badly damaged the disused wooden structure.
At the height of the blaze, a total of 25 firefighters from Hebburn, South Shields, Newcastle and Wallsend were involved in the operation.
The blaze first broke out at 1.30pm on Wednesday, the fire quickly spreading through the jetty’s wooden structure, off Blackett Street, Hebburn, to the rear of the Eco Centre.
But after being extinguished after five hours, the blaze again took hold at 8am yesterday.
Hebburn fire watch manager John Dutton said: “It looks as though the fire was started deliberately, because when we first arrived, we found a large tyre, of the type used as buffering on the side of ships, on top of the jetty, which may have been used to start the blaze.
“Children have been seen in the area of the jetty lately and it looks as though the fire was malicious.”
Firefighters were assisted by Port of Tyne river barges, which helped remove some of the timber from the dilapidated riverside jetty.
Mr Dutton added: “We don’t know if the fire was started deliberately again on Thursday morning, or if the strong winds took hold of some burning embers on the jetty.”
Insp Ian King, Hebburn Neighbourhood inspector, said: “We have been carrying out some anti-social behaviour work in Hebburn town centre and this could be a case of youths being displaced and causing problems down at the riverside.
“But we will direct patrols down that way to protect the public as the lighter nights come in.
“Police community support officers will also keep an eye on the situation off Hebburn riverside.”