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Youngsters become role models to prevent deliberate fires

Jul 20, 2022 | Local News

Children are helping to raise awareness of the potentially devastating impact of deliberate fires, in a bid to reduce incidents in their communities.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and believe housing have teamed up to run the Phoenix Fire Champions programme in primary schools in areas of County Durham which have seen a number of deliberate fires started.

The fire service leads sessions with year six pupils, with support and funding from the housing association, to show them why it is important not to play with fire.

Over the six weeks of the programme, children learn about deliberate fires that have been started near their school and walk around their neighbourhood spotting fire hazards such as fly-tipping and taking note of inconsiderate parking which could make it difficult for emergency services to reach the scene of an incident.

They’re visited by a fire and rescue crew and try out some of the kit, and they meet Fire Investigation Dog Woody and learn how he helps the fire brigade and police gather evidence which could lead to a prosecution.

At the end of the programme the pupils use their new knowledge to present an assembly in their own style and for a chosen audience, from schoolmates to parents and school leaders.

County Durham-based housing association believe housing has provided grant funding, and secured more than £3,000 from public sector procurement consultancy Prosper, for the initiative to be delivered in a number of schools across the county.

Karen Gardner, Safer Neighbourhoods Manager at believe housing, said: “By engaging with young people in schools we hope to make them aware of the risks of fire setting, and the potential consequences not just for them, but for others who may be affected, or may have property damaged.

“We hope that this programme will give the children the confidence to talk about the dangers of deliberate fires with their peers, their families and their friends, resulting in a positive impact on them, and the wider community.”

Jonothan Hitchen, of the Community Risk Management Team at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “These sessions have a tremendous impact, the children are keen to learn and help each other.

“Raising awareness of secondary fires, and relating it to their community, brings home to them the importance of not playing with fire.

“Younger children look up to them and ask them about it, and we hope it encourages them to be responsible and share the messages with their circle of friends and to share information with parents and Firestoppers.

“It is effective because we’re working with pupils, not talking at them, and they really enjoy being part of it.”

The most recent school to participate in the Phoenix Fire Champions scheme was Easington Colliery Primary School.

Teacher Chelsea Galloway said: “Our children really enjoyed the Phoenix Fire Champion project. They were very engaged and enthused to learn about the work of the fire service and the importance of arson reduction. They loved the visits from the fire dog and the appliances.

“They were able to use the knowledge gained to create a presentation at the end of their project to warn others of the dangers of arson and enjoyed presenting this to members of the fire service.”