FIREFIGHTERS are tackling Wearside’s arson problem by going back to school.
About 400 pupils from Southmoor Community School took part in an event aimed at reducing deliberate fires and other antisocial behaviour across the city.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service teamed up with Northumbria Police, Gentoo, the Youth Offending Service, Nexus, SAFC Foundation, Sunderland City Council and Victim Support for the day.
Pupils were able to identify and handle firefighting equipment, as well as taking part in quizzes and other activities.
Sunderland accounted for 37 per cent of all deliberate fires in the brigade area in 2008/09. The figure has been dropping since and city fire crews are determined to see that trend continue.
Watch manager Neil Harrison came up with the idea for the Southmoor event, which it is hoped will be extended to other schools.
“One of our main priorities in the Sunderland district is to reduce the number of deliberately started fires, which are a blight on the community and present a risk to public safety,” he said.
“By talking to young people face to face and engaging them in activities outside the usual classroom format, we hope to educate them about the knock-on effects of antisocial behaviour.”
Sunderland district manager John Allison added: “While our crews are dealing with deliberate fires they are not available to attend other more potentially life-threatening incidents such as someone trapped in a house fire or in a road traffic accident. It also puts extra pressure on our fire crews who are already very busy.
“Starting fires is just one example of antisocial behaviour, and by working with our partners in the area we can pull together to tackle other important issues that affect us all in our daily lives.”
Southmoor headteacher Dr Phil Ingram said: “Today has really been a groundbreaking event for Sunderland schools.
“At Southmoor we want to create responsible, caring adults, and the ability to bring together so much expertise for the benefit of our pupils has proven absolutely invaluable. We feel that it will change lives.”