Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) is reminding its communities about the dangers and restrictions on controlled burning. It is also urging parents and carers to talk to the young people in their families about the need to stay at home and the dangers of fire setting.
The Service is seeing a 115% increase in fires caused by people burning waste in their gardens, since lockdown was announced. During the same period in 2019 (23rd March - 7th April) we had 38 fires caused by controlled burning - this year it is 82. These fires are often spreading to flammable materials, causing bigger fires and/or environmental hazards.
TWFRS Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Peter Heath commented,
"Crews are increasingly responding to garden fires, often 'bonfires' that have spread to fences, or other materials or where the fire contains items causing smoke hazardous to human health. These fires are a significant source of air pollution and the smoke can include poisonous gases, such as carbon monoxide.
"Our advice is very straightforward and clear - don't burn household waste, plastics, rubber or any other material, which could cause harmful smoke."
The Service is also seeing a continuation of deliberate secondary fires. These are often set by young people, and recently 999 callers have informed our Control Room that young people have been seen running away from fires in wood and waste land.
Peter Heath continued:
"We know it's a very difficult time for many families - and we are very thankful to those who have ensured their children are abiding by lockdown and social distancing.
"However, we'd like to reach out to all parents and carers to ask them to talk to the younger members of the family on the importance of staying at home. The fact that our crews are attending to deliberate fires, at any time, let alone a time when everyone should be at home, is very hard to understand.
"Our crews are often attending fires deep in woodland, tying up an appliance which could be needed for a life-risk incident. It also risks bringing our firefighters into unnecessary contact with others at a time when social distancing is vital to limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
"We are also concerned that some younger people are continuing to meet up with friends and could be spreading or catching the coronavirus.
We know that young people can have a tendency to believe themselves to be invincible, but very sadly, the coronavirus is no respecter of age."
For more information on keeping your home safe from a fire during the coronavirus pandemic please visit the TWFRS website.