HUGE grass fires have devastated a Teesside beauty spot after continuous blazes in recent days.

Dozens of firefighters have been tackling the fires in Eston Hills, near Middlesbrough.

Cleveland Fire Brigade were still working in Eston Hills yesterday, after fires burned over much of the weekend, affecting thousands of square feet of land.

Station manager Alan Turner said: “It’s been devastated up there. It looks like a bomb has hit the site. There’s only the odd tree standing.”

The Northern Echo:

One of the fires over the weekend Picture: The Friends of Eston Hills

He added: “Even in the lockdown we were still fairly busy up there and since its been relaxed a bit it has resulted in a few more.

“They last all day.Yesterday (Monday) at Eston Hills we had the four wheel drive and three appliances.

“Then we had the same at Guisborough Woods. That’s a lot of appliances considering we only have 21 in total. We had those two incidents going on at the same time for the vast majority of the day yesterday.”

He added: “The thing is various parts of Eston Hills and Guisborough Woods are peat so it only takes a bit of heat and flame and it’s very hard to put out.

“They’re not all deliberate. Some are caused by litter, bottles and glass and that kind of thing. But the vast majority are arson.”

The fire brigade said it has responded to 24 incidents in the area during the last 10 days of May.

There have also been reports of increased antisocial behaviour involving bikes and quads.

The Northern Echo:

Some of the ash left in the aftermath of the fires

The fire service working with the Tees Rural Crime Forum, as well as conservation group the Friends of Eston Hill.

Police are using drones to monitor the area and increasing the number of patrols, as well as engaging with young people in the area.

Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “During the worry of the Covid-19 pandemic, so many of us have been enjoying local beauty spots even more as a way to protect our physical and emotional wellbeing.

“Sadly, a small minority have also taken the opportunity to deliberately cause damage and engage in antisocial behaviour, including the nuisance use of off-road bikes and quads.

“Preventing crime on such an expansive area is a challenge – and one that cannot be solved by one agency alone. Through true partnership working we can develop a multi-pronged approach with proactive and preventative measures.

“I will continue to monitor the police response to the issue and maintain my role of bringing together organisations with the power to make a real difference for communities who enjoy spending time on Eston Hills lawfully.”

Members of the public are urged to contact emergency services if they come across fires or antisocial behaviour.

The Friends of Eston Hills are considering setting up a warden scheme to monitor the area and have been working to support firefighters.

The Northern Echo:

Guisborough Woods have also been affected by fires

Maggie Gavaghan, secretary of the Friends of Eston Hills, said: “It’s so sad.

“The local community are all behind the fire brigade and have been giving them gifts of sweets and lollies.

She added: “They’ve worked so hard. They’ve never stopped for the last four or five days.”

She added: “We’ve had almost 200 new members since the lockdown started. We’re a conservation group as well as putting up the history and family photos of the area.

"People are genuinely wanting to help the police and fire brigade. Our members are so vigilant and they do report quite a bit of antisocial behaviour."