Call to ban private bonfires after jump in number of problem blazes – Hartlepool councillor demands action

The Endeavour House base of Cleveland Fire Brigade.
The Endeavour House base of Cleveland Fire Brigade.

Calls have been made to clamp down on private bonfires in Hartlepool following a number of problems across the area this year.

Cleveland Fire Authority’s Audit and Governance Committee reported there was numerous incidents that took place across the area this year around Bonfire Night.

Across Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton there were 41 more deliberate fires involving burning of rubbish, debris and grassland from October 26 to November 7,  a 24% increase compared to the same time last year.

Coun Marjorie James, Hartlepool Borough Council representative on the authority, called for action in time for next year to put a stop to private bonfires  that are not official.

She said: “With non-public organised bonfires, there has to be more activity from the fire authority and supporting authorities, including the councils to stop this.

“There’s rules and regulations and safety procedures that you need to have in place before you have those sort of events.

“Any ad hoc bonfires should just be closed down and we need to be very public about this.

“Let’s be more practical.”

She also made calls to get social housing landlords on board to clamp down on tenants storing combustible materials for fires.

Coun Teresa Higgins, a Middlesbrough Council representative, also backed the move but warned it would be difficult to police.

It comes after she saw council officers and emergency services staff face abuse as they attempted to clean up bonfires, including having stones thrown at them.

Figures showed there was six incidents of violence against fire service staff this year, the same as last year.

She said: “I agree with this but it’s very difficult when we’ve got people who don’t think and don’t care.

“In my area it was horrendous, I thought I was going to get lynched.

“It’s just ridiculous, it’s not tradition, it’s just stupid.

“We had council staff going round and removing the materials but then they got more clever this year.

“It’s about time we had a large campaign to stop this, the council, firefighters and police are working very hard but it’s getting out of control.”

Steve Johnson, area manager for prevention for the fire service, backed the move and said it was in line with their policies.

He said: “Our advice has always been to attend organised safe events.

“It helps prevent low level antisocial behaviour and injuries and potentially deaths.

“We have a massive education to give the community.

“I would welcome supporting that sort of partnership.”

The motion will now go before the full Cleveland Fire Authority at its next meeting.

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service