Figures show shocking rise in arson in run-up to Bonfire Night across South Tyneside as hard-hitting Darker Nights campaign launched

The number of fires started deliberately in South Tyneside more than trebled in the fortnight covering half term and Bonfire Night last year.
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New figures show the rate rocketed by 213% in the two weeks from October 25 to November 7 compared to the previous fortnight.

The shocking statistics have been released as emergency services across the region join forces to launch a new campaign urging people not to take risks with fire as the nights draw in.

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Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS)’s Darker Nights campaign is backed by Northumbria Police, North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.

The campaign focuses particularly on the extreme consequences that could befall anybody who starts fires and is accompanied by stark images showing a young man struggling to do the things that he loves best – playing on his computer console and mobile phone – with horrifically burnt hands..

The pictures will feature on posters across the streets of Tyne and Wear and Northumberland in the coming weeks, with the messages ‘Starting fires isn’t a game’ and ‘Don’t set fire to your selfie’.

Richie Rickaby, Area Manager for Community Safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said the consequences from setting a deliberate fire could be ‘totally life-changing’.

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"They could receive or cause serious burns that will impact a person’s life forever,” he said

Richie Rickaby, Area Manager for Community Safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue ServiceRichie Rickaby, Area Manager for Community Safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service
Richie Rickaby, Area Manager for Community Safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

“We are working closely with our partners across the region to educate, inform and make people and businesses aware of the serious nature of any kind of anti-social behaviour, the selling of illegal unlicensed goods, and attending unofficial firework displays.”

TWFRS firefighters and officers from their Prevention and Education team have already been attending schools across the region delivering Darker Nights assemblies containing essential fire safety messages.

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“The fire service always strives towards keeping the local community safe from harm all year round, with a particular emphasis on the demands of Bonfire Night,” said Richie.

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"But we would urge people to stay safe throughout the whole darker night’s season.

“We will be carrying out enforcement of licenced premises to ensure any fireworks sold in the coming weeks are safe but we would encourage communities to only attend organised displays.”

Northumbria Police Chief Inspector Nicola Walker said the force took anti-social behaviour seriously: “As ever, we will be working closely with our partners to positively address any issues or pockets of disorder.

“Anybody who is concerned about anti-social behaviour in their area, or is aware of any 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.”

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Stu Holliday, NEAS Head of Emergency Preparedness Resilience and Response, added: “There are few more devastating medical emergencies than those caused by fire, and such injuries cause extreme pain, prolonged rehabilitation and often loss of previous mobility, as well as the potential for permanent scarring.

“We want everyone to stay safe this season so they will hopefully not need services.”

If you have any important information about deliberate fires being started in your local community – you can report the details anonymously by calling Firestoppers on 0800 169 5558 or by reporting it through their website