Northumbria Police are working closely with Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service to help young fire setters see the error of their ways.

It comes after reports of teens fire starting have been on the rise in the Ashington area in recent weeks. A 16-year-old girl was arrested on suspicion of arson and criminal damage and repeated incidents have been reported at Ashington Community Woods.

Northumbria Police are working closely with the Fire and Rescue Service to help young fire setters see the error of their ways. Those aged under 18 caught setting fires are being encouraged to sign-up to the fire service’s education-based intervention scheme, named Extinguish.

PC Andy Hall, of Northumbria Police, said ‘Extinguish has been on offer for several years but following increasing reports of fire setting, we’ve been directing more teens to the initiative than ever before. Often, those starting these fires aren’t doing it maliciously to hurt someone but they’re turning to it out of boredom and because they think it impresses their friend. Setting a bin on fire might seem like a victimless crime to them but a small fire could soon turn in to a large blaze.’

‘Not to mention the impact on the victim, even if their property has only been targeted by chance, having your bin set on fire can feel like a very personal and frightening ordeal. Meanwhile, the fires being started in woodland areas come with their own risks to the environment and wildlife as well those setting them.’  He added: “While some incidents have been so severe we’ve had no choice but to arrest those responsible, where possible we want to educate first.

‘Extinguish gives children the chance to see the error of their ways and fully understand the consequences of their actions, the impact on others and how it can affect their future. We hope that those who successfully complete the programme never look back and make a positive contribution to their community like the majority of other young people do.’

Gail Keenan, NFRS Community Safety Department Delivery Manager, said ‘There has been a rise in deliberate fire setting in our area, dealing with this type of incident is treated just as seriously as any other fire – but may mean that we are delayed getting to a fire at a property, or an RTC where people are trapped and they need our services to save lives. If you have serious concerns about a young person involved in fire setting behaviour, we do offer a bespoke education programme for individuals.’

Ashington Town Council is also working with the respective services in tackling anti-social behaviour and arson issues at the Paddock Wood Play Area and the wider woodland in North Seaton.

For more information on the Extinguish project email:  extinguish@northumberland.gov.uk.