FIREFIGHTERS have condemned arsonists for putting lives at risk by starting fires in a derelict building.
Crews from Hebburn were again called to the former Hawthorn Leslie site in the town, on Tuesday about 9pm, after nearby residents raised the alarm.
There are some real serious implications here and setting fires is not only putting those who are doing this at risk, but also endangering firefighters’ lives.Chris Hill, crew manager, Hebburn fire station
It is the second time in a week firefighters have been forced to risk their own lives to tackle flames within the building which has lain vacant since it closed a decade ago.
Plans to flatten the site had been held by its listed building status but that is no longer the case after the listing was finally removed last year.
The building is owned by Lancashire-based property development firm MMC Development Limited which says the site was bought for re-development.
Crew Manager at Hebburn Fire Station Chris Hill said: “This is getting quite serious now.
“The building has been on our radar for a long time now and our fire safety team is looking into it along with police.
“There are some real serious implications here and setting fires is not only putting those who are doing this at risk but also endangering firefighters’ lives.
“It’s not like an abandoned house fire where we can put the fire out from the outside, this building we have to go in.
“It has concrete ceilings and concrete floors and the heat inside the building is intense.
“And while we are there tackling that fire, we aren’t available to attend other fires where lives can be in danger.”
A spokeman for MMC Development wished to make no comment on the issue yesterday.
Dating back to the 1880s, when Newcastle firm R&W Hawthorn amalgamated with the shipbuilding company launched by Hebburn-based Andrew Leslie, the yard was once one of the most revered shipbuilding facilities on the Tyne, famous for building.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “South Tyneside Council applied to English Heritage to remove this building’s Grade II listed status as it had been damaged by repeated acts of vandalism and fires. Its listed status was removed in 2014.
“The site is privately owned and the council has allocated the land for economic development but no planning application to redevelop the land has been received yet.”