Half term warning after firefighters deal with 500 'secondary' arson attacks a year in South Tyneside
Firefighters are spending the equivalent of 64 days a year tackling deliberate fires.
Since Bonfire Night 2020, crews from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) have tackled 4,421 deliberate secondary fires, including 500 in South Tyneside.
Crews spent an average of 21 minutes extinguishing each blaze.
These type of fires are commonly small outdoor fires involving discarded items, refuse, wheelie bins, and grasslands that do not involve people or property and are often linked to antisocial behaviour.
Half term begins for schools across Tyne and Wear, and now Chief Fire officer Chris Lowther has called on teenagers to stop putting lives at risk: “Over the past twelve-months our firefighters have attended nearly five-thousand deliberate secondary fires across Tyne and Wear,” he said.
“These actions by a selfish section of the local community are putting people’s lives at risk.
“We can’t be in two places at once, which means if we’re dealing with a malicious fire in one part of the region then we aren’t able to respond to a real emergency – where someone’s life could be in danger.
"Let’s hope it’s not a loved one or family member of one of culprits who requires our help at their time of need.
He offered advice to residents to reduce the risk of arson in the run-up top Bonfire Night: “We ultimately want communities to stay safe from harm, and would recommend that any rubbish or unwanted items that may be outside of residential properties to be disposed of in the appropriate manner,” he said.
Northumbria Police Chief Superintendent Janice Hutton added: “We are aware of the impact that the antisocial behaviour of a minority can have on our communities.
“We want everyone to enjoy the Halloween and Bonfire Night period and contribute positively to their communities. It is important, however, that people do so safely while taking responsibility for themselves and being considerate of others.
“As ever, we will be working closely with our partners to positively address any issues or pockets of disorder.
“We are proud of the community spirit and togetherness fostered across Northumbria, something this area is famed for, and would ask that the public continue to work with us to ensure this region remains a safe place to live and work.
“Anybody who is concerned about antisocial behaviour in their area, or is aware ofany criminality, is asked to report it to us by speaking to an officer on patrol, via the ‘Tell Us Something’ page of our website or calling 101.”
Coun Ernest Gibson, South Tyneside Council’s Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: "In the run-up to Bonfire Night, we want to make sure everyone stays safe.
“We appreciate that it is a time of excitement for young people but it can be a time of the year when our older residents can feel scared and intimated.
“By taking a proactive approach with our partners we aim to prevent issues of criminal damage, unauthorised bonfires and under-age firework sales which normally
peak at this time of year.”
If you have any important information about deliberate fires being ignited in your local community – you can report the details anonymously by calling Firestoppers on 0800 169 5558 or by reporting it through their website www.firestoppersreport.co.uk