FIRE chiefs have launched a new arson campaign in Hartlepool after grass fires across Cleveland rocketed by more than 300 per cent in just three months.
Cleveland Fire Brigade kickstarted their summer arson prevention drive at Summerhill Country Park, where there has been 26 grass fires over the last four months.
The brigade is calling for more support from the public to tackle the problem, which saw a huge increase between April and June.
There were 534 grass blazes in that time compared to 121 for the same period last year.
Fire chiefs have chosen Summerhill, off Catcote Road, Hartlepool, for the launch of the summer campaign as grass fires there have dropped dramatically because of agencies working together.
Regular patrols, talks in schools, leafleting and engaging with the public to raise awareness of the problem saw incidents fall from 12 in April to just two in May and two in June.
Phil Lancaster, the brigade’s director of community protection, said overall arson is down by more than half year on year but there is still a lot of work to do.
He said: “Arson ruins lives, communities and local businesses and it is time to say enough is enough.
“We have chosen Summerhill Country Park as the location for the summer arson campaign launch because it is one of the areas where there is great partnership work to bring down arson.
“With the start of the summer school holidays upon us, which is when the number of arson incidents normally increase, we need to be extra vigilant and do everything we can to prevent it, however, we can’t do it alone.
“We do need the continuing support of our communities to stop these fires starting in the first place and to report any suspected arsonists confidentially by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or the police non emergency number 101.”
Pupils from Sacred Heart Primary School in Hartlepool were at the launch along with partner agencies such as Cleveland Police, housing providers and the Cleveland Fire Support Network.
The campaign includes a programme of activities to help keep youngsters out of trouble over the summer, community patrols, partnership working, posters, and leaflets.
Adam Reah, outdoor activities co-ordinator for Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “People who deliberately start grassland fires are blighting our environment, harming wildlife and putting lives at risk.
“We have had our fair share of fires in recent months at Summerhill and have been working closely with Cleveland Fire Brigade, schools and other organisations as a consequence to tackle these issues and are pleased with the progress made in reducing the incidences of grass fires.
“Despite this, we still do however need the continued support of the community and I urge people to remain vigilant to prevent fires being started in the first place.”