FIREFIGHTERS are staging a host of fun activities this summer to keep young people out of trouble.
Cleveland Fire Brigade is taking its climbing wall and multi-use games area out into communities as part of their anti-arson campaign.
The idea is to prevent youngsters from getting bored and starting grass fires which have seen a 300 per cent increase in recent months.
Sixty Sacred Heart Primary School pupils sampled some of the activities on offer when they joined fire chiefs at Summerhill visitor centre in Hartlepool for the launch of the brigade’s summer arson campaign.
They learned about the dangers arson poses and had fun at the same time.
The brigade chose Summerhill because the country park was a target for grass fires in the spring.
But incidents have dropped dramatically in the last two months thanks to work between the fire brigade, police and council.
Phil Lancaster, Cleveland Fire Brigade’s director of community protection, said: “What we have seen in the past is young people who when bored decide to start a fire to get a fire engine to attend.
“We have had a dry few months and any fire that occurs can spread quite rapidly especially if there is a bit of wind. Young people think it is just a bit of fun.
“We are trying to engage with young people and encourage participation in worthwhile activities and reduce the number of fires we get.
“We find that in areas where we have these activities fires go down dramatically.”
Phil said deliberate grass fires divert the brigade from carrying out free home fire safety visits and could divert precious resources from more serious emergencies.
He added: “We investigate the cause of every fire and if we can establish who started it we will pursue them through the courts because it is a dangerous thing to do and ruins everybody else’s enjoyment of the area.”
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.”
The campaign also includes fire officials delivering talks in schools, mobile patrols at fire hot spots radio advertising to raise awareness.