A CAMPAIGN to keep the back streets of Darlington free of rubbish has been launched after firefighters warned blazes from loose refuse were putting lives at risk.

Darlington Borough Council, in partnership with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) are launching The Back Lanes Project, which aims to encourage people to keep the back streets of the town clean and free of rubbish, reducing fly-tipping and deliberate fires.

The campaign comes as Dave Glendenning, district manager at CDDFRS, said they had seen a "high increase" in rubbish fires across the borough, and the overall number had doubled in the last four years.

He also said the fire service had been held up dealing with road traffic collisions and serious house fires due to the time spent dealing with rubbish fires, as there are only two fire appliances serving Darlington.

Back lanes in some areas of Darlington have seen an increase in fly-tipping and residents leaving loose rubbish and wheelie bins out in the street. The new initiative aims to clean up the streets and will see the council’s Civic Enforcement Team and the fire service working together to visit residents and deliver education.

The project will initially focus on a number of streets in the Northgate, Bank Top, Pierremont, North Road and Park East ward areas of Darlington. As well as education, the residents will be given free bin identification stickers and the council will work with local private landlords to remind them of their responsibilities.

If the initiative is successful it will be rolled out to other ward areas of Darlington.

CDDFRS has also reported increases in the number of deliberate rubbish fires they have attended in the same hotspot ward areas.

Cllr Jonathan Dulston, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for community safety said: “We’re working closely with the fire service on this pilot project to raise awareness and tackle the issue of bins being left out, fly tipping and deliberate fires set in our back lanes

“Leaving bins out overnight, or for days on end, means they can become a target – the bin itself may be stolen or used by thieves to gain access to properties and the less time your bin is out, the less likely it is to be a target for arsonists, bag slashers or others.

“Our message is clear: don’t put your bin out until collection day and bring it in as soon as possible the same day. Dumping rubbish in the back lanes will also not be tolerated.

“We’re hoping to educate and persuade people to do the right thing, but if they continue to commit what is an environmental offence, we will take action and they could face a fine or prosecution.”

Malcolm Woodward, assistant district manager for CDDFRS, added: “Since April, over 60 per cent of deliberate fires attended by the service in Darlington have involved loose refuse.

“Our crews will be assisting our partners to help deliver education and understanding to the local community. We are hopeful this will reduce the amount of loose refuse on the streets."