Yobs as young as 10 attack firefighters with rocks as they tackle wheelie bin blazes
Firefighters called to put out wheelie bin blazes say they have come under attack from yobs as young as 10
The underpass beneath Moorsley Road, in Hetton, is one of the hotspots frequented by children who have been towing away bins and then setting light to them in the tunnel.
Other areas of the surrounding estate, including Peat Carr, have also seen fires, often using flytipped waste as fuel, with rocks thrown at crews as well as verbal insults hurled as they work to put out the blazes.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has been called to the area six times in the last 30 days, but the area around Langdale Street and Nidderdale Avenue has been a particular problem area with frequent call outs during the last year.
In addition to the dangers missile attacks have put fire crews under, the service says there is the additional risk that officers cannot tell what is inside the bins which have been set alight, with concerns aerosols could cause a greater danger to them, residents and youngsters themselves.
The service is sending a fire appliance to the incidents, rather than a Targeted Response Vehicle (TRV) as the larger crews can keep each other safe and the trucks are also equipped with CCTV systems.
A three-day campaign bringing crews together with Northumbria Police and Sunderland City Council ward members has seen the Prince's Trust group based at Farringdon Fire Station deliver leaflets offering safety advice.
ATo help deal with the issue, people have been urged to put out their bins on the morning of collection and take them in as soon as possible after their waste has been emptied to reduce the chance it will be used to start a blaze.
Dave Curtis, watch manager at Rainton Bridge Fire Station, said: "The issue here is twofold.
"We don't know what is inside these bins when they've been set on fire and then there's the risk of injury when we are getting stones thrown at us.
"We will attend and put out the fire, but the other important issue is that we cannot be in two places at once and it detracts from our response to other calls outs, such as road traffic collisions, other fires, which can be critical to saving a life."
The cost of tackling a wheelie bin fire is put at around £2,000 per incident.
Kevin Burns, station manager of Rainton Bridge and Farringdon stations, added: "This issue of the wheelie bins has a detriment to the community and a cost to society.
"If your child has been out and they come back smelling of smoke, you should be asking them what they have been doing.
"People need to put their bins away behind a locked gate, don't leave rubbish lying around and they need to report flytipping and antisocial behaviour and if there is a fire, call 999."
Coun James Blackburn, who represents both the Hetton Ward on Sunderland City Council and Easington Lane on Hetton Town Council, said: "It's a minority that are doing this terrible thing, but it's costing the fire brigade, the local authority, Gentoo, and in the end, ultimately, it's money which comes out of the public purse.
"As well as damaging property, they are putting themselves at risk and everybody else.
"Peat Carr is one area that people should be able to use and enjoy, but these mindless people are going around setting fire to rubbish.
"This is often at the rear of people's homes. It can be very close and it's a big concern."
A 72-year-old woman who lives near the underpass said she had raised concerns about the issue with the council and Gentoo.
"It is a big concern because it makes a mess of the place and there's also the cost of bringing out the fire engine.
"I don't think the ones who are doing it live near here, but it's being going on a long time."
Inspector Nick Gjorven, of Northumbria Police, said: "We are committed to taking a firm approach to help reduce incidents of antisocial behaviour and ensure our residents and businesses feel safe.
"That is made possible by working closely with our partners and this is an example of the work we are doing alongside other organisations to tackle fire-related antisocial behaviour.
"Communities should not have to put up with the antisocial behaviour of a few individuals and we understand that the actions of a minority can have a significant effect on those living and working in the area.
"By working together with the public and our partners, we can tackle this problem effectively.
"We would urge anybody who has any concerns to speak to use."
The emergency services have said residents should report blazes as soon as possible via the 101 police and fire service can build up a picture of where incidents are happening and when.
The wheelie bin fires have not been linked to a current craze elsewhere in the region where teenagers have started blazes to get high on fumes.