'The largest fire we've had for a long time' as footage shows scale of damage to Hartlepool park

Park managers have described a recent fire as the largest suffered by the beauty spot in years.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 6:00 pm

Speaking after Monday evening’s blaze, Dan Garthwaite, service manager at Summerhill Country Park, off Catcote Road, Hartlepool, said: "This has been the largest fire that we’ve had for a long time on site at Summerhiil.

“There was a number of fires that took place last year, but they were smaller fires.

"That doesn’t mean that we condone them in any way, shape, or form, but there was a lot less of space that was affected in comparison to what happened earlier this week.“

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Claire McDonald, senior outreach officer at Summerhill Country Park, next to the area of land that was set on fire.

"It’s the biggest fire we’ve had in the period since I took responsibility at Summerhill as service manager.”

The fire, which took place on the southern side of the park in an area adjacent to the wetland, burnt over 900 square metres of grassland, threatening wildlife and ground-nesting birds.

Staff are currently looking at the long-term impact the blaze will have on wildlife.

Mr Garthwaite added: "We are still looking at the damage that’s been done and we will put a plan forward to how we can best restore the area.”

The area of grassland at Summerhill Country Park that was set on fire. Photo:Frank Reid

Members of the public are encouraged to contact the police if they spot anything suspicious around the site and there are hopes that increased staff and security in the future will discourage further antisocial behaviour.

The incident on Monday, March 22, comes after a series of deliberate fires at the park last April.

Mr Garthwaite said: "It tends to be when the nights get a little bit lighter and we go into spring and summertime that there’s an issue on site with antisocial behaviour.

"Last year there was quite a substantial amount of fires. It’s just frustrating to see what’s happened so early on now and the sort of impact that that’s obviously had.”

Further incidents of antisocial behaviour were reported at the park on Wednesday, March 24, when people drove motorbikes on to the site.

Mr Garthwaite said the misbehaviour is caused by a “small minority” and he added: "It is totally unacceptable and we will do whatever we can within our means to try and dissuade people from doing this moving forwards.”

Contact Cleveland Police with information about Monday’s fire via the 101 number, quoting ref 45289.