New scheme aims to help prevent arson incidents in East Durham

The meeting took place at Durham County Hall.
The meeting took place at Durham County Hall.

A new fire service scheme aiming to prevent anti-social behaviour and arson is set to roll out in East Durham, councillors have heard.

On July 5, Durham County Council’s special safer and stronger communities overview scrutiny committee heard the latest data on deliberate fires in the Easington area.

The area has been listed as a hotspot by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) due to the number of incidents in recent years.

Between April and June this year 55 primary fires were recorded - a 32 per cent decrease on the same period the previous year.

Station manager Phil Innis of CDDFRS told the committee that despite that improvement, fires in the area are still up by 17 per cent over the last four years.

A new prevention scheme to be set up in future will include work with schools, communities and partners.

Following a funding boost, the three-year project will target children leaving primary school to help “break down some of the behaviours in young people”.

Other plans include developing a community facility to host activities with talks ongoing with Peterlee Town Council to use the town’s Pavilion.

“We don’t have full details but don’t want to restrict ourselves by expecting people to get to one place,” Mr Innis told councillors at Durham County Hall.

“The message is going out that enough is enough and we need to reduce the impact of fires on these communities.

“The relationship between police, local authorities and fire service are much stronger than they have been. The foundations are there and we need to build on those foundations.”

The scheme will see CDDFRS  work with charities Sported UK and StreetGames to hold events and could be expanded across the county in future, the meeting heard.

The committee heard the prevention work will compliment several existing measures from schemes removing abandoned cars and boarding up buildings to a ‘firestoppers’ number allowing the public to report information on fires.

Coun Rob Crute asked if there was a reason that east Durham was a problem for deliberate fires and whether it was linked to Government austerity and the lack of street wardens and buildings in use.

Mr Innis added that the more rubbish left on streets could be linked to increases in nuisance, anti-social behaviour and fires.

Councillors welcomed the scheme and its potential for expansion across County Durham, with Coun Sarah Iveson saying: “I’m a great believer that prevention is better than cure.”

“It will be great to have it there whether it is needed or not.”

Coun Leanne Kennedy also described the scheme as a “fantastic idea” and was told a model should be in place in the next two to three months.

Chairman of the committee, David Boyes, also requested a “memorandum of understanding” to outline the scheme’s aims and links with DCC.

Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service