Deliberate fires spark fresh concerns, with fears children are starting blazes in South Shields park 'because they are bored'

Concerns have been raised over deliberate fires being started in parts of South Tyneside amid calls to clampdown on the incidents.

By Nic Marko
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 6:19 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd April 2022, 6:24 pm

The problem of blazes set in open spaces across South Tyneside is often raised by borough leaders and people in communities, particularly in the spring and summer months when a combination of light nights, drier conditions and school holidays make them a greater concern for firefighters.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service chiefs have stressed education programmes are in place targeting schools and community groups, and urged anyone aware of any hot-spot sites to report them.

Fire service station manager Steven Bewick reported to West Shields, Cleadon and East Boldon Community Area Forum (CAF) that the area has seen a number of deliberate fires in recent months.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

File picture of the aftermath of grass fires in Temple Park in 2020.

During February and March the area covered by the forum saw a combined total of 21 deliberate secondary fires, which includes incidents such as smaller outdoor blazes not involving people or property.

This was up from the 13 recorded last year, according to a fire service report presented to the CAF on Thursday, April 21, and Mr Bewick also noted they have seen further rises in recent weeks.

He added: “Especially over the Easter holidays, we have seen a rise in the antisocial behaviour fires.

“We currently have our prevention and education teams using social media to try and get the call to residents to either contact us by the FireStoppers number or by your local councillor to get stuff lifted to reduce antisocial behaviour fires.”

He added by removing fly-tipping they can work with partners to help reduce rubbish fires.

It is also now “business as normal”, following disruptions due to Covid-19, for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue bosses in trying to arrange sessions with schools and youth groups to educate young people on the dangers of such incidents.

Cllr Doreen Purvis, Whiteleas representative on South Tyneside Council, raised concerns how Temple Park in particular often sees increased deliberate fires during the warmer months.

Cllr Purvis said: “We have a lot of problems during the summer/the spring in Temple Park because it becomes a place where the youth congregate and make themselves little dens to drink and do all kinds of things, and if they’re bored they set fires.

“I’m pleased to see that the fire service is trying to engage with the youths, because it’s just boredom, they need something to distract them.

“No matter how much we might think fire setting is not a good use of time, it is providing a distraction for them that’s going to work.”

Council chiefs stressed they will work with partners to help provide “as many diversionary activities as possible” for young people in the area.

Work has also been ongoing between the fire service, police and council as part of the Lighter Nights campaign to tackle antisocial behaviour.

People can anonymously report information about deliberate fire setting to FireStoppers online at www.firestoppersreport.co.uk or by calling 0800 169 5558.