Arsonists ‘put lives at risk’

FIRE chiefs say lives could be at risk if mindless yobs don’t stop tying up vital resources by starting fires at a beauty spot.

The warning comes after a crew from Peterlee Fire Station was called to deal with a fire at Castle Eden Dene, in Peterlee, around the same time a serious road accident had occurred, which saw a schoolboy airlifted to hospital.

Crews from the station dealt with three incidents at the dene in the space of three hours on Saturday night.

Peter Brown, watch manager at Peterlee, said: “It’s irresponsible but it’s also surprising that it’s not young children, it seems to be older teenagers and young adults in their early 20s and they should know better.

“It seems quite harmless and innocent but then we are tying up an appliance and four firefighters which means when you get something serious like a road traffic collision, other resources have to come from other areas.”

The crew were sent to tackle a fallen tree that was on fire at the dene, near the Hatfield Place entrance, around 4.45pm on Saturday and ended up spending an hour at the scene.

But at 5.15pm, a 12-year-old boy and his mum were injured in a two-car collision in Middle Street, Blackhall.

As reported in yesterday’s Mail, the boy had to be airlifted to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough by the Great North Air Ambulance after complaining of neck, back and leg pain after their Vauxhall Corsa was involved in a collision with a Daewoo Matiz.

His mum also complained of similar injuries and was taken to the same hospital by road ambulance.

As the Peterlee crew was tied up dealing with the dene fire, colleagues from Wheatley Hill’s retained station had to turn out to help a second crew from Peterlee with the road smash.

The boy has since been discharged from hospital and it is thought his mum is also recovering at home.

Mr Brown said: “We see more fires in the dene with the lighter nights.

“Things are drying out and the holidays are obviously here.

“The dene generally has its periods where we attend quite often, but in the last few years it seems to have got worse.

“The problem is youths gather in certain areas of the dene. Alcohol certainly plays a part.”

PC Karen Hall, of Durham Police, had been seconded to Peterlee Fire Station in 2008 to develop a partnership between the police and fire service to tackle arson among youths and anti-social behaviour.

PC Hall’s work saw a drop in the number of dene fires, but funding ran out to continue her liaison work with the station earlier this year.

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