WORRIED families in a South Tyneside street say a blaze started by youngsters could have had serious consequences.
Firefighters were called to a field behind Ralph Street in Hebburn after a fire was started deliberately.
Concerned residents say youngsters have been gathering on the field, and setting off fireworks, since the start of the school holidays.
It was just before 9.20pm on Thursday when the alarm was raised by a householder.
The man, who did not wish to be named, said: “The kids must have a den or something in the bushes and trees, and you could see smoke coming through the trees.
“I called the fire brigade because I was worried it would spread. The trees were really dry and they’re right next to the Father Walsh Centre and a new set of bungalows on Hedgeley Road.
“It could have spread to them, or what if the kids couldn’t get out? It could have been a lot worse.
“Since the school holidays started, there’s been a gang of kids hanging out on the field, setting fireworks off and all sorts. Firefighters said it was a pile of rubbish they’d set on fire.”
Firefighters from Hebburn station attended to tackle the blaze and said that it had been started “maliciously”.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “Police received a report of youth disorder in the Ralph Street area of Hebburn. Officers attended the scene, where the fire service had extinguished a small refuse fire, but no youths were present. Patrols will continue to be carried out by officers in the area to combat any further disorder.”
Officers are also continuing their summer crackdown on crime and disorder in the area.
Members of the Jarrow and Hebburn Neighbourhood Policing Team have increased patrols during the holidays to ensure everyone has a safe summer.
During the past week, officers stopped and spoke with people they suspect are involved in crime and disorder in the area.
And during the weekend of July 18 to 20, they seized almost 30 cans of lager, seven litres of cider, two litres of wine and five bottles of alcopops during patrols.
They carried out extra patrols in areas they know young people frequent, such as Hebburn Mall and Hebburn Riverside.
The activity is part of Operation Piper, aimed at targeting those responsible for anti-social behaviour and disorder.
Neighbourhood Inspector Ian King said: “The summer usually results in an increase in anti-social behaviour and associated crime, and we’re working closely with partners to ensure the area remains a safe place for everyone.
“Activity includes speaking with young people about the impact of drinking alcohol in terms of their health and future and in terms of the potential for increased disorder.
“By carrying out operations such as this, we can ensure residents enjoy a safe summer.”