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Posted on Monday 1 August 2022

County Durham parents are being urged to highlight the dangers of setting deliberate fires after new figures show an increase in incidents.

According to official data from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) crews attended 895 suspected deliberate fires, with almost a third of the total incidents service wide in Peterlee, Easington and Seaham between April 2021 and March 2022. That is an increase of 37% compared to the previous year.

Of the 895 fires in 2021/22, most were rubbish (45%), grassland/scrubland accounted for 16%, with 11% being vehicle fires.

Over the run in to the summer break, Firefighters visited schools and community events to educate children on the dangers of setting deliberate fires and promoted the FireStoppers anonymous reporting line. They also have worked closely with Durham Constabulary attending ‘Meet the Beats’ events, as well as joint inspections alongside the police and Durham County Council. The crews have reported fly tipping issues and ensured any at-risk properties or areas have the appropriate plans in place to mitigate the risk of deliberate fires.

Chris Williams, CDDFRS East Divisional Manager, urged parents to help fire crews by educating youngsters about the dangers of setting fires during the summer break.

Mr Williams said: “Deliberate fire-setting is as needless as it is unacceptable.

“We are proud of our educational and prevention that we have carried out over the past few weeks with our partners, but it is true that parents, carers, and members of the public can all help us here by engaging with young people and laying bare the costs and consequences of starting a fire.

CDDFRS Arson Reduction Manager, Lee Aspery said: “When a young person deliberately starts a fire, they are risking their safety, increasing the possibility of a permanent and disfiguring injury and jeopardising their future. Not to mention, Firefighters are also being dragged away from genuine emergencies.

“Our prevention work will continue across our service area with our partners, but it goes without saying that we take deliberate fire-setting very seriously and will always work with our partners in Durham Constabulary to identify those responsible.”

T/Superintendent Neal Bickford, of Durham Constabulary, said: “Setting a fire deliberately is never acceptable and something we take incredibly seriously.

“When young people commit such a reckless act, it not only puts lives at risk but ruins their future too when they end up with a criminal record.

“That’s why we work so closely with our partners at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service to educate young people around the dangers and is something we will continue to do.

“Anyone found to be setting a deliberate fire will be dealt with robustly but our message is simple, please think twice.”

Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of community protection, said: “We are committed to working with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and parents and carers to educate young people about the dangers of setting fires.

“Arson attacks can cause serious injury as well as damage wildlife, property and the environment.

“Our advice to residents is to contact Fire Stoppers if they have any information regarding fires being set deliberately.”

Anyone with information regarding deliberate fire setting should call the independent charity Fire Stoppers anonymously on 0800 169 5558.

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