Safety warning after spate of fires started in Sunderland park

A warning has been issued after a series of fires were deliberately started in a city park.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 5:52 pm
Backhouse Park, Sunderland.

In the past fortnight, three separate fires have been set in Backhouse Park, Ashbrooke.

Each was either attended to by park rangers or fire crews, leading to Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue service issuing a warning about the dangers of such fires and how easily they can spread from a single, naked flame.

Over the course of one weekend, March 20-21, police also issued a dispersal order for 48 hours in a bid to tackle the problem of anti-social behaviour, meaning they can disperse groups gathered at the park.

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Backhouse Park, Ashbrooke.

A spokesperson for the fire service explained: “We are always concerned when we have to deal with a spate of similar fires that involve parks and green spaces. You often see stories on the national news about forest fires in places like Australia and America that have gone out of control – these would’ve all started with a single naked flame.

“We would always advise people against starting fires in areas such as woodlands, forests and local parks as they can easily spread to other nearby localities, and can be a danger to residents and wildlife.

"Especially in the nicer weather and when the lockdown restrictions are being lifted, people may decide to visit places like Backhouse Park to have picnics or barbeques, we would always advise people to have controlled barbeques at home where there is lesser risk of the open flame causing a wider blaze.

"We would also advise that people take home any litter they may accumulate as that can also create a fire hazard.”

Police are working with the community in a bid to tackle the problem.

Inspector Jamie Southwell, of Northumbria Police said: “We know that the anti-social behaviour of a minority can have a significant impact on our communities and it will not be tolerated.

“We will continue to carry out targeted patrols in the area and work with our partners to address areas of concern.”

Residents have also expressed concerns about fires at the park, which is popular with dog walkers.

Lyall Reed, who reported a fire last Saturday night to the authorities, said: “The fires could spread and destroy large swathes of the park, the glass left behind could be seriously damaging to dogs, while the litter just thoughtlessly dropped and left on the grass spoils the park for the increasing number of users. Speaking to our hardworking East Rangers I know they are very concerned about this."

Much work has been done recently to improve the park, which has become more regularly used in lockdown.

St Michael’s ward councillor, Michael Dixon, said: “The local Community Police Officers are aware of the situation and are to patrol Backhouse Park regularly.

"There has been so much excellent progress made in Backhouse Park in the past few years, with everyone involved working closely together, that we must hope the Police presence will help discourage this type of anti-social and potentially dangerous behaviour.”

Backhouse Park has a rich history in the city. Thomas William Backhouse gifted the park, formerly Ashburne Park, to the Corporation of Sunderland in 1922 who named it Backhouse Park.

::Anyone concerned about anti-social behaviour is asked to report it to Northumbria Police via the ‘Tell Us Something’ page of their website or by calling 101. In an emergency, always ring 999.

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