Fire chiefs have warned reckless yobs they are putting lives in danger after a blaze was sparked at a South Tyneside beauty spot.
Two fire crews from South Shields were scrambled to Cleadon Hills at 7.50pm on Tuesday after onlookers spotted youths setting bales of hay alight.
Fire crews were helped by quick-thinking members of the public, who moved three bales away from those that were burning to ensure the raging fire did not leave a greater trail of destruction.
Officers spent an hour tackling the blaze but say the incident – the cause of which is now being probed by police – could have been far worse.
South Shields fire station watch manager Ed Cooper said: “This had the potential to be a much bigger incident.
“When we arrived, two hay bales out of around 50 on the hills were on fire. With fires like this, we are often there all night.”
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service district manager for South Tyneside Bill Forster said: “Over the summer months we see a significant increase in antisocial behaviour fires, with incidents peaking in the early evening.
“While our crews are attending these fires they are unavailable to attend other incidents, which could create a serious threat to life. It could be your own family and friends you are putting at risk.”
“We respond to all incidents as quickly as possible.
“If a crew is already in attendance at an incident such as this, it can mean it takes another crew slightly longer to reach the scene if another fire occurs.”
It could be your own family and friends you are putting at risk.Bill Forster