A CAMPAIGN to halt a rise in the number of dangerous antisocial behaviour-related fires across Wearside is under way.
The action comes after Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) announced that there were a total of 370 wheelie bin fires in Sunderland between April 2012 and March of this year.
That means that once every two days arsonists are setting fire to a refuse bin in the city, something which it is estimated costs the community £2,000 each time.
Thousands of leaflets are now being handed out to members of the public, while stickers are also being placed on wheelie bins which have not been taken in the day after they were emptied by collectors.
Fire chiefs say that dealing with these smaller incidents puts a further strain on resources which could be deployed elsewhere.
Watch manager Sharon Robson, who is part of the Sunderland Education and Prevention Team, is one member of the service who has been putting reminders on left out bins in the Long Streets area of Hendon.
“It’s not just that the wheelie bins catch fire, it could be the house that is set alight too,” said Sharon.
“The engines could also be needed at another, much larger emergency at the same time.
“It’s right across the city that the fires happen and it’s often because people forget to put their bins back in after they’ve been emptied.”
Hendon resident Neil McDonough said he was pleased to see the service being proactive in tackling the issue.
“It was probably about eight to 10 years ago that my bin was set alight and it burned right down to the bottom,” said the 55-year-old.
“I had to wait 10 weeks to get a new one. I’ve not seen it being a problem around here recently but a lot of it goes on.”
The fire brigade will work with Sunderland City Council to reinforce the message to residents to keep their bins safe from arsonists if possible.
Deputy council leader Coun Harry Trueman, who is chairman of the Safer Sunderland Partnership, said: “The leaflets and stickers are useful reminders of everyone’s responsibility to only leave their bins out on collection day, and then bring them back inside as soon as they can after they have been emptied.
“If we all continue to work together, we can reduce the risk of antisocial behaviour and make our communities even safer and more pleasant places for everyone to live in.”
District manager for TWFRS in Sunderland John Hall added: “Antisocial behaviour fires account for three quarters of all fires we attend.
“Not only do these fires cause damage to property, the environment and tie up firefighters unnecessarily, they can also cause injuries and deaths.
“Fire spreads quickly and can be very unpredictable.
“What may seem like a bit of fun to those setting the fires can cause serious damage to property, but more importantly endanger lives.”