Firefighters hail Bonfire Night a success despite Ashington school fire

Fire chiefs in the North East have hailed Bonfire Night a success as they dealt with fewer calls and fires than last year

A firefighter douses a flaming tree on Bonfire Night in Byker
A firefighter douses a flaming tree on Bonfire Night in Byker

Families were forced to stay indoors and close their windows on Bonfire Night as flames engulfed a school building in Ashington.

Billowing smoke forced police to close the town’s Alexandra Road, as firefighters fought the blaze in a derelict building on the Richard Grainger Campus.

Yet overall fire chiefs have hailed the evening a success with fewer calls and fewer fires to deal with in the county than a year ago.

Alex Bennett, chief fire officer at Northumberland County Council, said he was pleased by the reduction.

“Our teams do a lot of work in the run up to Bonfire Night including liaising with event organisers to reduce safety risks,” he said.

“On the day our control room staff know where bonfires are planned and are therefore able to help callers assess what actions might be required from the service.

Terry Chrisp Firefighters tackle the blaze at the derelict Coulson Park First School in Ashington
Firefighters tackle the blaze at the derelict Coulson Park First School in Ashington
 

“We would like to thank the public for their co-operation. It appears our fire safety messages are continuing to reach people across the county and our education programmes in schools and communities, about the dangers of fireworks and bonfires, are really working.

“We have promoted a lot of bonfire and firework safety messages through the council’s social media channels – and over 31,000 people have looked at our fire safety pages this year – with over 5,000 views on November 5 alone.

“The figures are very encouraging and we will continue to work to further reduce the number of incidents and improve public safety.”

The number of bonfires put out by the county’s fire service almost halved, down to 10 from 19 last year, while the number of calls received also fell to just 97, a reduction on the 119 in 2012.

Nobody was hurt in the Ashington blaze, and Northumbria Police dismissed reports that fireworks had been thrown at members of the emergency services.

It was also a quiet night across the rest of the region, though children in Newcastle woke up to find their local playground a charred wreck after it was targeted by arsonists.

Terry Chrisp Firefighters get the blaze under control at the derelict Coulson Park First School in Ashington
Firefighters get the blaze under control at the derelict Coulson Park First School in Ashington
 

Tyne and Wear’s fire and rescue service received 430 calls – its lowest number in a decade.

But among the more harmless Guy Fawkes fun, crews had to deal with a fire that engulfed play equipment on the King George V playing fields in Fenham.

And there were three reports of attacks on the lifesavers.

Group manager Dave Jefferson thanked firefighters for their hard work – and families for enjoying a relatively safe night.

“Whilst we have had a busy night we are delighted that we received the lowest number of calls and incidents for 10 years,” he said.

“But although the number of attacks on our firefighters have reduced this year, any anti-social behaviour towards our staff is completely unacceptable.

“All of our appliances and vehicles are fitted with 360 degree digital CCTV allowing us to record footage of any attacks on firefighters and we will use it to prosecute the individuals involved.”

Overall the number of property fires on Tyneside fell by 58%, with the number of rubbish fires down by almost a quarter. However firework-related injuries doubled to 10.

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