FIREFIGHTERS have blasted arsonists who put lives at risk in a series of wheelie bin fires.
Crews were called out to tackle several blazes in Boldon Colliery during the early hours of Sunday.
Now fire chiefs are calling on residents to shop the firestarters before someone is seriously hurt or even killed.
Two of the bins had been pushed against properties.
Tony Brew, watch manager for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “People don’t seem to realise how dangerous wheelie bin fires can be.
“They can quickly take hold and if they are near to a property, the flames can spread causing damage to the property and, even worse, put lives at risk.
“Fortunately, we were in Boldon attending to a wheelie bin fire when people alerted us to one that had been started close to a property in Charles Street.
“Because we were in the area, we were able to get to it before it took hold.
“It could have easily been a lot worse.”
Wheelie bins in Arnold Street and Charles Street were set alight at around 5am.
Firefighters are now warning anyone caught starting fires risk being put before the courts facing a charge of arson with intent to endanger lives which can carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Mr Brew added: “People just don’t understand how serious the consequences of starting fires can be.”
Jon Commons, Neighbourhood Sergeant for Boldon, said: “Police take the issue of arson extremely seriously.
“These fires can have serious consequences and we will not hesitate to put people before the courts and where evidence allows, face the more serious charge of arson with intent to endanger lives.
“We would appeal for anyone with information on the fires to contact police.
“We would also ask for residents to ensure their wheelie bins are put away and not left in back lanes.”
Anyone with information on the fires is asked contact their neighbourhood policing teams on 101 ext 69191 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.