Arsonists blamed for Teesside grass fires

Arsonists are being blamed for a surge in grass fires on Teesside which are putting lives at risk, officials say.

In the Eston Hills area alone, 57 fires have been dealt with in 26 days, according to Cleveland Fire Brigade. The same period in 2010 saw 30.

Guisborough Woods has also suffered with 20 fires in the past 26 days, compared to three last year.

Cleveland Police have joined brigade staff in mounting additional patrols which have resulted in some arrests.

'Blighting our countryside'

Brigade community liaison officer Neil Roberts said: "During the school holidays we often see a rise in grass fires but the prolonged dry spell has compounded the situation.

"We are very lucky to have some beautiful countryside on our doorstep but unfortunately such areas also attract undesirables who seem intent on starting fires deliberately.

"Not only are people's lives been put at risk, but the perpetrators are blighting our countryside and harming important wildlife."

A Cleveland Police spokesman added: "A number of arrests have been made regarding these fires and inquiries are ongoing.

"We will continue to carry out joint patrols with the fire brigade and take positive action against anybody setting fires."

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