A COUNCIL chief is urging householders to join our fight against arsonists.
Wheelie bins, piles of garden waste and even items such as sofas put out for collection are often the target of firestarters.
We launched a Stamp It Out campaign earlier this month with Hartlepool Borough Council, the police and the fire brigade to try and cut the deliberate blazes that cost taxpayers £2m a year and risk lives.
Denise Ogden, Hartlepool Borough Council’s assistant director (neighbourhood services), is now calling on people to get behind the initiative and play their part.
She said: “Arsonists will set fire to anything, and that includes things left outside of homes.
“We want people to try and stop them having that opportunity by not leaving any waste or flammable materials where it is easy to get at.
“Not only are these fires a nuisance and costly to clean-up, but it puts people at risk.”
The council’s street cleaning budget is £1.8m per year, of which £150,000 is spent on clearing away fly-tipping that can be an arson risk.
Mrs Ogden highlighted Bonfire Night as a key date in the council’s diary.
In the week leading up to November 5, patrols are sent out to find and gather up any mounds of wood and rubbish that have been built ready to set fire to. That costs the council around £5,000 every year.
She said: “We can be seen as the baddies spoiling people’s fun, but some of these piles get out of control and pose a risk to property and people. There are often vulnerable people living nearby who have genuine concerns about them.
“It’s not only their size, but the items that are put on them. There can be things such as tins of paint that can explode and tyres that give off harmful smoke.”
The council also carries out crime prevention work alongside the police, and part of that work includes making homes safer.
Windows are a major issue, such as where landlords have nailed them shut.
On such occasions, the council installs safer windows that are hard to break into but easy to get out of if there is a fire.
Mrs Ogden added: “Our overall message is that we all have a part to play and our role is to raise awareness and help where we can.”