Firefighters in Cleveland are using innovative ways to help get key safety messages across to the public in the run up to Bonfire Night.
Brigade personnel will be swapping their fire engines for cycles as part of a hard-hitting, three-week campaign to warn communities of the dangers of bonfires and fireworks.
The campaign gets underway this Friday (21 October) and runs until Sunday 13 November. Over a similar period last year Cleveland Fire Brigade had to attend 196 deliberate rubbish fires, many of which were unofficial bonfires. Figures also show that 65 people were taken to the University Hospital of South Tees alone after sustaining bonfire or firework-related injuries.
Steve Johnson, Arson Reduction and Fire Investigation Manager with Cleveland Fire Brigade, explained the rationale behind firefighters getting on their bikes.
“The bikes enable firefighters to get into the heart of communities and access areas that vehicles cannot reach. This is part of our ongoing work to educate people about the dangers of bonfires and fireworks, and how they can stay safe by following some simple advice.
“The bikes also have off-road capability which makes it easier to access certain areas where people may be planning unofficial bonfires.”
It is an offence for anyone to have an unofficial bonfire or set off fireworks in a public place.
Mr Johnson added: “Every year councils are kept busy removing unofficial bonfires but the Fire Brigade still has to put out a significant number of fires. One of the messages that we will be getting across during the coming weeks is ‘Don’t play with fire – celebrate Bonfire Night by attending an organised, official event’.”
The campaign also includes safety leaflets and posters, a DVD is being shown in schools, the Brigade’s website and social media sites will be used to promote safety messages and an extensive programme of activities is being organised for young people throughout the Cleveland area.
Residents can report unofficial bonfires to their local Council on one of the following numbers:
Hartlepool Office Hours 01429 523333
Out of Hours 01429 869424
Middlesbrough Office Hours 726001 or 0800 0136001
Out of Hours 01642 726050
Stockton-on-Tees Office Hours 01642 391959
Out of Hours 01642 607943
Redcar and Cleveland 24 Hours 0800 0131357
Visit the Brigade’s website for further bonfire and firework safety information www.clevelandfire.gov.uk