Fire bosses are looking to educate young people to help clamp down on rising numbers of deliberate rubbish fires.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s North and Coastal Community Forum heard from Cleveland Fire Brigade chiefs that there had been a 14% rise in deliberate fires from April to October compared to the same time last year, equating to 46 incidents.
Fire brigade community liaison officer Darren Lane said the main cause of the rise was the likes of rubbish fires and grassland blazes and a number of methods are being used to clamp down on the issue, including the use of body cameras to identify the culprits.
He said: “My main aim is to work in hotspot areas and try and reduce these fires; rubbish fires, grass fires, all kinds of anti-social behaviour fires.
“What we’re doing is working with the schools. We’ve got the school education team going in and giving assemblies and telling them about the dangers of lighting fires.
“If we’re attending a fire somewhere and something is happening at the other end of the district then we’re not going to make that.
“We’re trying to tell the kids what the impact is on the fire brigade by us attending these rubbish fires in bushes.
“We need the resources in other areas.
“Our crews are looking to wear body cameras to try and identify who they are.”
Mr Lane highlighted several areas which are being focused on in particular, including the field and park opposite the former Saxon pub.
He also said three wards had been highlighted as hotspots to help cut down on deliberate fires, Headland and Harbour, De Bruce and Seaton, and officers have been speaking to residents about how to reduce the risk of incidents.
Despite the increase in deliberate fires it was reported the number of accidental dwelling fires has dropped by 24% and across the brigade they are the best performing in the country in this area.
He said: “In terms of the whole brigade that’s the best result across the whole country for Cleveland, so we’re doing really well in that sense.
“We are working in all areas with the crews, we’re offering home fire safety visits.
“We’re there to help.”
Coun Rob Cook, who represents Hartlepool on Cleveland Fire Authority, praised the work of firefighters in the area.
He said: “Cleveland Fire Brigade do an absolutely superb job considering the cuts they have had to take because of this government.
“It’s a shame, none of you get the praise you deserve.
“We’re actually reducing the number of fires in numerous areas, it’s unbelievable the job they do and a lot of people don’t realise.”
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service