United Kingdom — Annual spate of fires on open grassland in area has begun earlier, prompting launch of a campaign to educate youngsters on the damage the fires cause.
A spate of destructive grass blazes on Eston Hills and across Teesside have cost Cleveland Fire Brigade £108,000 since the beginning of the month.
From March 1 to March 17, there were 54 grass or moorland fires within Redcar and Cleveland and Middlesbrough – including 14 on Eston Hills.
With weather getting warmer earlier this year, the annual spate of fires on the hills and on open grassland in the area has begun earlier.
This has prompted Marty Challenor, watch manager at Grangetown fire station, to launch a campaign to educate youngsters on the damage the fires cause and discourage them from setting them. Marty, who has worked at Grangetown for 14 years, said: We are going into schools and taking appliances around the area to let the youngsters know how dangerous their actions are.
It is a long-standing problem, but we are seeing more fires recently. It is very dangerous, and it also ties up resources that should be put to better use elsewhere. It takes us at least 10 to 15 minutes to get up to the hills, then we are in our off-road vehicle and have to get to where the fire is. We need a crew of at least four, often more, and they cannot respond to calls for things like house fires if we are putting out a grass fire.
John Feeney, Cleveland Fire Brigade’s district manager for Redcar and Cleveland and Middlesbrough, believes the fires were started deliberately – and have cost the brigade £108,000.
He said: Deliberate grass and moorland fires are reckless in the extreme. They damage our beautiful countryside and divert our resources away from dealing with real emergencies where lives may be at risk.
Arson accounts for around 70% of fires across Cleveland and this is why the brigade continues to work very closely with the police, other key organisations and local communities to put a stop to it once and for all.
We do target resources into areas where deliberate grass fires are most prevalent and patrols are being stepped up following these recent incidents.
Eston ward Councillor Christopher Massey, Cabinet member for environment and rural affairs at Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: We are aware of a spike in fire-setting on Eston Hills which we believe is down to the unseasonably warm weather.
Cleveland Fire Brigade has formed a strategic plan with its partners to deal with the issue alongside their usual fire prevention campaign. Through Redcar and Cleveland Councils Neighbourhood Action Partnerships, Cleveland Fire Brigades community liaison officers regularly brief residents about fire safety issues such as this.
Contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or police on 101 if you have information on arson.