United Kingdom — A SPATE of arson attacks across Teesside has cost taxpayers over half a million pounds.
The shocking figure has been released by Cleveland Fire Brigade as the number of deliberate grass fires booms.
Between March 28 and April 14, firefighters attended 279 deliberate small fires across the Cleveland area, the large majority of which were grass fires, costing a total of £549,630.
Eston Hills are a particular hotspot, where deliberate fires have increased nearly fivefold compared to the same time last year.
Grass fires started deliberately at the popular beauty spot rose to 23 this year over the Easter period.
This compares with just five incidents during the same period in 2012.
But this is still lower than in 2011, when there were 40 incidents over the same period.
The number of grass fires usually increases with warmer weather and during school holiday periods.
Cleveland Fire Brigade says the latest figures for Eston Hills still compare favourably with those for 2011.
Phil Lancaster, the brigades director of community protection, said: Overall, arson is falling significantly year on year, but it still accounts for 71% of fires.
These latest figures over the Easter period demonstrate there is still much work to be done to tackle arson, and we are continuing to work closely with our partners and local communities to put a stop to it once and for all.
Grass fires not only blight our landscape and harm our countryside, they also put the lives of residents, firefighters, visitors, and animals in danger.
Ingleby Barwick neighbourhood police team have warned of arson problems in their patch.
On Twitter they wrote: We have had recent problems in the Thornaby Woods area of fires being set.
Cleveland Police said they have upped patrols around Thornabys Bassleton Wood.
And Stockton Councils enforcement team is also supporting the emergency services by carrying out additional patrols in the affected areas.
One regular visitor to Bassleton Wood said: It is kids bored out of their mind.
They can think of nothing better to do than come and set fire to things.
As part of Cleveland Fire Brigades Enough is Enough campaign, Mr Lancaster said: We are again asking members of our communities to say enough is enough.
We would urge them to call Crimestoppers confidentially on 0800 555111 or the police on 101 if they have any information about incidents of arson or about the arsonists themselves.