‘Somebody could be killed’ - Councillor’s fears after arson attack rips through farmland

The blaze at Little Eppleton Farm. Photo by Lisa Tempest.
The blaze at Little Eppleton Farm. Photo by Lisa Tempest.
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A councillor fears people could be killed if there are more arson attacks such as the one which ripped through farmland on Wearside and destroyed 20 acres of barley at the weekend.

The blaze ripped through Little Eppleton Farm in the Hetton area, with the farmer whose land was involved in helping firefighters to put out the inferno.

Firefighters deal with the blaze at Little Eppleton Farm.

Firefighters deal with the blaze at Little Eppleton Farm.

Investigators have said they believe the fire, which could be seen for miles around, was started deliberately and have warned of the dangers of people starting fires in the current dry and hot weather conditions of this summer.

A Tyne and Wear Fire Brigade spokesman said the incident could have caused “untold damage to life and property”.

Hetton Town Councillor Bob Heron, a former mayor of Sunderland, today told of his concern that further incidents of the same nature could cost people their lives.

Coun Heron said: “We’ve had these type of fires in the past in this area.

Firefighters deal with the blaze at Little Eppleton Farm.

Firefighters deal with the blaze at Little Eppleton Farm.

“We had three quite serious ones in Hetton Dene and at Hetton Lyons not so long ago.

“The fire service managed to get them out before they got too bad, but with this latest one, it’s becoming a real problem particularly during the dry weather we’ve been having.

“It needs to be stressed just how serious it is.

“Somebody could be killed such as a firefighter who was trying to put it out or if a bystander got caught up in things.

Hetton Town councillor and former mayor of Sunderland Bob Heron.

Hetton Town councillor and former mayor of Sunderland Bob Heron.

“There could be serious consequences which the people starting these fires probably don’t realise.”

Coun Heron added that he thinks the education of young people on the dangers of starting fires is important.

“I know the fire service go into schools and they do very important work in educating children about this,” he said.

“That is the way that we can stop this and I think that’s the way forward.”

Crews were called shortly after 7pm on Sunday to Little Eppleton Farm after the blaze broke out.

Four officers wearing breathing apparatus used one hose jet to put out the flames.

Lynsey McVay, area manager who is responsible for Community Safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Over recent weeks Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have attended a number of deliberate grass and barley fires across the area. These fires might start small but they can quickly develop, spreading uncontrollably over wide areas.

“These fires can easily spread to engulf buildings, cause injuries and badly effect the environment.

“They are also extremely time consuming for firefighters and can be resource intensive to tackle, which means that whilst crews are tied up tackling grass and barley fires, they are not available to attend emergencies elsewhere.

“By starting fires you are not only risking injury to yourselves and others, including firefighters, you also risk criminal prosecution and a fine or even a prison sentence.

“We would ask that everyone reading this message discusses the impact of these fires with those within their household and considers the impact on them, and their families, if they need us in a real emergency but we are tied up fighting deliberate fires such as these.”